Some months ago various kind people helped me put together some sources for finding out about Roman Britain. Here’s one that got away. I’m still wondering how.
“Roman Britain – A Sourcebook” (it’s hard to say it more clearly than that, isn’t it?!) edited by Stanley Ireland, published by Routledge and updated to a third edition in 2008. It pulls all the relevant ancient texts together into one book, saving not only time but potentially a huge amount of space.
I’ve been thinking for ages that somebody really ought to do this. And it turns out they already have. In fact they’ve been doing it since 1986. Duh!
Those were the words used by Paul Theroux to describe the writing of fiction in, er – was it ‘My Secret History’? Wherever it comes from, it’s a phrase that’s both true and reassuring.
More cheering advice from Geoff Dyer on the Guardian’s ‘how to write fiction‘ thread yesterday:
“…you don’t have to know what kind of book you are writing until you have written a good deal of it, maybe not until you’ve finished it – maybe not even then.”
I do like that Stewart Ainsworth chap. He’s the one from English Heritage who wanders around the landscape pointing out things the rest of the Time Team have missed. Invariably he comes up with a theory that makes sense of whatever the diggers have been puzzling over.
Sadly he isn’t (as far as I know) available to accompany amateur archaeologists on country walks. When most of us spot a strangely-shaped lump in a field there’s no-one to tell us whether it’s an ancient burial mound, the base of a Norman castle or the remains of the farmer’s rubbish tip. But now help is at hand.
English Heritage, bless ’em, have come up with a real treat. The National Heritage List for England has an interactive map that marks up Scheduled Ancient Monuments, listed buildings and so on, so we can all see what’s where. Zooming in reveals a variety of symbols that are explained in the list below the map, but – and here’s the really clever part – clicking on the question mark symbol and then clicking on the thing you’re interested in will bring up the record for whatever it is, with links to more detail than most of us will ever need to know.
Being the creation of English Heritage, the information (altho’ not the map) naturally stops at the borders. If anyone knows how to find out this sort of thing for Scotland, Wales and Ireland, please speak up*. Meanwhile I’m off to check out the listed buildings of Lichfield, where I’ll be visiting the Library next Saturday to talk about Writing Historical Fiction.
*Later – many thanks to John, who’s just sent a link to the Irish National Monuments Service. They have a similar map at – http://webgis.archaeology.ie/NationalMonuments/FlexViewer/