Mapping Hidden Britain
An exploration of the hidden maps of Britain - from caves and megaliths, to canals and airspace
Longlisted for the 2014 Thwaites Wainwright Prize
Welcome to a large small island.
The outline of the British Isles is instantly recognisable. But jostling within that familiar profile are countless vying maps of the country. Some of these maps are founded on rock, or on the natural features of the land. Far more are built on dreams – on human activity, effort, and aspiration.
From investigations of caves and megaliths to canals and airspace, Joanne Parker reveals a country with countless competing centres and ceaselessly shifting borders – a land where one person’s sleepy, unexceptional province will always be the busy heart of another’s map.
Britannia Obscura opens our eyes to the infinitely layered, rich and surprising landscape of Britain.
“This prodigious book takes us on a fascinating excursion around a Britain obscure to most of us”
“Original and engaging.”
Gillian Tindall, Literary Review
“An affectionate, alternative exploration to make readers feel more familiar with Britain.”
“Parker’s tour is conducted with a light touch in prose which makes learning from her a pleasure. She makes delightful connections between eras and activities, and is conscious of the value of the unknown and uncertain in our lives... At twice the length this book would have been no less enjoyable.”
Horatio Clare, Daily Telegraph
“[Joanne Parker’s] book is an eye-opener.”
Andrew McNeillie, Country Life
“Ultimately, Britannia Obscura is a book that aims to make its readers more familiar with Britain but also excited about the endless possibilities for surprise that lie just around familiar corners.”
Bethan Mason, Pembrokeshire Herald
“Britannia Obscura’s alternative topographies, ancient and modern, speak to our yearning for meaning and pattern. Parker reconnects these fascinating networks and lays them bare – ready for us to impose new mythologies on them in turn”
Times Higher Education
“This alternative exploration of the country is an accessible and fascinating read.”
Rebecca Bentley, Cornwall Today
“[A] lively volume.”
Janette Currie, The Times Literary Supplement
“This prodigious book takes us on a fascinating excursion around a Britain obscure to most of us. Parker digs into the constantly changing underground tunnels of caving, navigating the land’s canalways and explores the megalithic shape of the nation with its prehistoric monuments- or ‘stone fingers’- that ‘bejewel Britain like the studs and rings of body piercings’”
Julia Richardson, Daily Mail
“Enjoyable book…a mixture of travelogue and social essay… Vivid travel writing… Offers some illuminating historical and geographical trivia too.”
David Evans, Independent on Sunday
“Parker’s easy prose jaunts along with a sense of wonder and curiosity. Fascinating; and a source of endless musing.”
Sarah Ryan, Trail