Martin Wall, Warriors and Kings: The 1500-Year Battle for Celtic Britain (Stroud, Gloucestershire: Amberley Publishing, 2017), pp. 282. UK £20.00 Hbk. ISBN. 978-1-4456-5843-8.
Martin Wall according to the book sleeve jacket ‘inherited his passionate interest in local history and folklore from his father and has been writing about these subjects for more than a decade. He lectures to historical groups on a variety of subjects and acts as a gallery interpreter in his spare time. He is the author of The Anglo-Saxon Age and The Anglo-Saxons in 100 Facts all published by Amberley Publishing in Stroud in 2017.
The books introduction is a mere two pages and sets the tone for the book at the outset. It begins with broad sweeping statements and some very generalised comments regarding ‘The Celts’. There are sixteen chapters in book that cover a fifteen-hundred-year timeframe. Chapter one titles ‘An Ancient Land’ offers a geographic discussion of ‘The Celts’, and how these tribes were ‘subjugated’ by various invading forces. One comment from this chapter does stick in the mind and highlights some of the issues with the book in general. Wall states that ‘Archaeology should not be allowed simply to overturn all our folk-traditions’, and whilst in the loosest of senses the author may be correct, being so dismissive of archaeology is a very negative approach to take.
In the following chapters, Wall makes many broad statements and at times overuses ‘must have’, ‘could have’ and ‘probably’ far too much. The author refers to some ancient and Welsh authors such as Strabo, Cassius Dio and Llywarch Hen, yet they are not referenced in the bibliography at all. The bibliography is pitiful and only numbers twenty-four secondary sources for the whole book. There are no footnotes, and no referencing of primary material, which leads the reviewer to assume that they were taken from secondary sources. Wall uses many older and outdated sources, and makes references throughout the book to other secondary works. The use of Robert Graves’ poetic work as an important source for the book is slightly worrying. This work has been rejected by historians, archaeologists but appears to be loved by non- scholarly readers and writers.
Overall, the book is a nice introduction for those who do not care about where the author got their material from or if it is referenced. It is certainly not an academic or scholarly book, but for a general reader with a passing interest in this historical period, then it makes an interesting book. If you are looking for a book that is easy to read, with a mixture of history and folklore then you would enjoy this authors work. It is worth noting that you need to read it with an open mind, and accept that the authors interpretation may be different to trained historians and scholars working in this field.
** NOTE: The Historical Examiner received a complimentary copy of the book to review, but no other incentives. The review is an honest and unbiased opinion.