The Britannias: An Archipelago's Tale (Hardcover)

The Britannias: An Archipelago's Tale By Alice Albinia Cover Image
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A revelatory portrait of Britain through its islands, The Britannias weaves history, myth, and travelogue to rewrite the story of this “island nation.”

From Neolithic Orkney, Viking Shetland, and Druidical Anglesey to the joys and strangeness of modern Thanet, The Britannias explores the farthest reaches of Britain’s island topography, once known by the collective term “Britanniae” (the Britains). This expansive journey demonstrates how the smaller islands have wielded disproportionate influence on the mainland, becoming the fertile ground of political, cultural, and technological innovations that shaped history throughout the archipelago.

In an act of feminist inquiry, personal adventure, and literary quest, Alice Albinia embarks on a series of journeys that traverse Britain and reach beyond its contemporary borders—from Europe to the Caribbean, Ireland to Scandinavia. She walks the coastlines of Lindisfarne, sails through the Hebrides archipelago, and bikes into Westminster at dawn. As she takes us across extravagantly varied island topographies and surveys centuries of history, Albinia ranges between languages and genres, and through disparate island cultures. She talks to stubbornly independent islanders and searches for archaeological and linguistic traces of island identities, discovering distinct traditions and resistance to mainland control.

Trespassing into the past to understand the present, The Britannias uncovers an enduring and subversive mythology of islands ruled by women. Albinia finds female independence woven through Roman colonial reports and Welsh medieval poetry, Restoration utopias and island folk songs. These neglected epics offer fierce feminist countercurrents to mainstream narratives of British identity and shed new light on women’s status in the body politic today.

Vivid, perceptive, and disruptive, The Britannias boldly upturns established truths about Britain while revealing its suppressed and forgotten beauty.

About the Author

Alice Albinia is the award-winning author of Empires of the Indus, Leela’s Book, and Cwen. Her writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, and National Geographic, among other publications. She lives in London.

Praise For…

[A] fascinating, often exhilarating survey.… Like one of those illusion paintings, Britain makes a different kind of sense when seen from its edges.… Albinia is an intrepid, imaginative guide, an adventurer for our more environmentally conscious age. She chooses to accentuate female perspectives in this account, but why shouldn’t she? For centuries history and archaeology have defaulted to the masculine.
— Miranda France - Times Literary Supplement

[Alice] Albinia’s prose is impressive.… Albinia also demonstrates the traveller’s ability to become involved in the lives of the locals. She’s also skilled at uncovering these islands’ forgotten histories.… In the end, the main impression given by The Britannias is the uniqueness of [Britain’s] outlying islands, each one entire unto itself.

— Guy Stagg - Financial Times

Sparkling.… Rooting [her] stories in rigorous research…Albinia realizes her quest with panache. She inverts long-held assumptions about the periphery versus the centre and creates a history that is richer and stranger the further it travels from seats of power. Despite the mainland’s constant co-opting of island cultures over the centuries, her brackish motherlands still burst with poetic life.
— Gavin Plumley - Country Life

A dazzlingly brilliant book. Travelling by boat, swimming through kelp, riding on a fishing trawler, Alice Albinia takes us on an extraordinary journey around the British isles, revealing a liquid past where women ruled and mermaids sang and tracing the sea-changes of her own heart.
— Hannah Dawson, editor of The Penguin Book of Feminist Writing

Product Details
ISBN: 9780393608557
ISBN-10: 0393608557
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: February 27th, 2024
Pages: 512
Language: English