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Publisher's Summary

The Debatable Land was an independent territory which used to exist between Scotland and England. At the height of its notoriety, it was the bloodiest region in Great Britain, fought over by Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and James V. After the Union of the Crowns, most of its population was slaughtered or deported, and it became the last part of the country to be brought under the control of the state. Today, its history has been forgotten or ignored.

When Graham Robb moved to a lonely house on the very edge of England, he discovered that the river which almost surrounded his new home had once marked the Debatable Land's southern boundary. Under the powerful spell of curiosity, Robb began a journey - on foot, by bicycle and into the past - that would uncover lost towns and roads, reveal the truth about this maligned patch of land and result in more than one discovery of major historical significance.

Rich in detail and epic in scope, The Debatable Land takes us from a time when neither England nor Scotland could be imagined to the present day, when contemporary nationalism and political turmoil threaten to unsettle the cross-border community once more.

©2018 Graham Robb (P)2018 Audible, Ltd

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  • Kirstine
  • 04-28-18

Obscure but fascinating part of Scottish history

Despite having, in the past lived, in the Scottish Borders for 30 years I had not heard of the Debatable Lands, so found this book interesting and informative. It’s a highly detailed account of the author’s historical research into the topic started after moving from Oxford to live in a remote location in what was the Debatable Lands.

I imagine the book has maps and lists of historical dates so it helps to have an atlas or Ordnance Survey map to hand. Wikipedia has a useful entry with a map.

The Debatable Lands comprised a small lozenge-shaped piece of land about 10miles long by 4 miles wide on the England/Scotland Border situated a bit North of Carlisle and West of the A7. If you visit Scotland coming up the M6 the A7 is the route through Hawick to Edinburgh. It was an area of conflict for many centuries: sometimes among warring families and sometimes between the two adjacent countries. Its history is mixed in with the exploits of the Border Reivers and the establishment of the Riding of the Marshes: the latter still performed as part of annual jollifications in a number of Border towns.

The book also has some Roman history and some interesting historical detective work by the author on the Arthurian Legend as to whether it is entirely a myth or not. Southern Scotland has many names with Arthur in the title, including Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh.

The author reviews the Scottish Independence Referendum coloured by the history of Southern Scotland and notes that the people nearest to England were more in favour of staying in the Union than any of the other areas of mainland Scotland: rather like the paradox of prejudice against immigrants being less in areas with more immigrants.

I enjoyed the book and the voice of Saul Reichlin, who made valiant efforts at various accents and pronunciations of Scots dialect words.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful