The Story of the Isle of Man


Author: Arthur William Moore

Publisher: General Books LLC (Scanned)

Published: 2012, originally 1902

ISBN: 9781154154152937

Pages: 31


I guess I should start with what I didn’t like and get that out of the way. I don’t know what the original book looked like but this scan of the book has three columns on each page. It was hard to keep where I was in the reading straight because of that. The only way you could tell where the chapters were is that the word chapter was italicised. If you missed it, tough luck. I couldn’t really tell what was going on with the headings by the end.

Now that that is out of the way let me get to the meaty part. This book was written in 1902 so of course the scholarship is to that level, and I’m sure the information is out of date. It was obviously written as a text book for children in school, and while the author explained things like “state”, “sovereign” and “government”, he didn’t talk down to the students and he did not dumb down the text.

I also loved how he gave both the mythical origins of the Isle of Man and and the historical one, including a geological survey of how the island was formed. The author managed to weave the mythical/poetic with the historical and still showing how they both differ. I wish all our children were taught this way!

The book went through the history of the Isle of Man up until just before the time the book was published in 1902. I have to say that it wetted my appetite to read more on the subject and I hope I can find books that were written just as well as this book was for its time.


Early Christian Ireland

Author: T.M. Charles-Edwards

Publisher: Cambridge University Press

Published: 2000, 2004, digitally 2007

ISBN: 9780521037167

Pages: 707 including Appendix, Glossary, Bibliography and Index



This is the first fully-documented history of Ireland and the Irish from Saint Patrick to the Vikings. Other books cover either a longer period (up to the Anglo-Norman conquests) or do not indicate in detail the evidence on which they are based. The book opens with the Irish raids and settlements in Britain, and the conversion of Ireland to Christianity, and ends as Viking attacks on Ireland accelerated in the second quarter of the ninth century.


The book is made up of an Introduction, 13 chapters and a conclusion. The book also has, as mentioned above, and Appendix which starts on page 600 and contains Genealogies and King-lists. The glossary, which starts on page 630, has a list of Irish and Latin words and names and their definitions. Page 635 is the first page of the Bibliography which includes principal works of Irish interest that were mentioned in the text and notes of the book, as well as important works on related topics. The Bibliography is very extensive and could keep one very busy tracking the mentioned books and reading them. The Index starts on page 671.

The Introduction of the book is a tour of what the book will be talking about and why the author chose one route over another when writing about the subject matter.

From the very beginning I liked the author’s writing style. The author assumed that his audience are intelligent enough to read the book and didn’t dumb the material down. It is a huge book with lots of good and interesting information. I couldn’t get through it all as I usually do when reading books so I have been reading it in chunks to get all the information presented digested. I still feel like I need to re-read some parts, not because I didn’t get what the author was trying to say, but because there is SO MUCH there to digest and get a handle on.

This is a book I’d highly recommend but only if you are REALLY interested in the subject matter, don’t mind reading an academic book and are not just looking for information on Ireland in general. It is pretty easy to get lost in the details…

The Celts

Author: Wolfgang Meid
Publisher: Innsbruck
Copyright: 2010

Synopsis: “The Celts” – who were they? Did they really exist, or are they as some archaeologists seem to believe, a mere scientific construct, a fictitious entity? The basis of this misapprehension is the fact that it is not possible to diagnose Celticity by archaeological means alone. “Celtic” is, in the first instance, a linguistic concept, and disregarding this linguistic foundation must lead to an impasse. It is the proven relationship of the so-called “Celtic” languages and their derivation from a common ancestor which justifies this scientific concept.

“Celts”, on the other hand, is an ethnic term attested for population groups in western Continental Europe, but which has been extended to include also population groups in the British Isles for which this name is not attested. The basis of this terminological extension has been the discovery of the genetic relationship of the languages spoken by all these groups, which consequently have been termed “Celtic” languages, going back to a common prehistoric ancestor language termed “Proto-Celtic”, a distinct branch of the Indo-European language family. Since a language presupposes speakers, those could be called “Celts”. From a linguistic point of view these “Celts” were real people; today their descendants would be rather called by other names, like Irish or Welsh.

Review: This is another introduction to the Celts, however, this is written from the point of view of a linguist and philologist as opposed to an archaeologist.  The author says “It is the author’s opinion that material culture, by itself, is insufficient to define Celticity (which explains the Celto-scepticism virulent among archaeologists); it needs to be combined with, and backed up by, the linguistic evidence which is the primary indicator.” (Page 5) Since I completely agree with the author I was very excited to read what he had to say.

The book is divided into seven chapters: origins and early evidence of the Celts, Celtic archaeology, expansion of the Celts and the quest for new homelands, the Celts in the British Isles, society and culture, religion and the insular Celtic literary tradition.  The focus of the book is varied and it encompasses a little bit of everything from archaeology to history to literary (and linguistic) records.  It is a small book (only 182 pages including the selected bibliography) so I was not expecting a real indepth study in linguistics and philology.

I really loved the fact that the author started with a discussion of what the Celts used to name themselves, what others have called them, and what it means when modern scholars talk about “Celts” or “Celtic”. It leaves no question as to what the author himself means when he uses these names. In chapter 2, the author does an amazing job at explaining the confusion about the Hallstatt and La Tene cultures being Celtic or not. He also makes a good job of explaining where that confusion came from. The chapters on society, culture and religion are very interesting as well. They give a good overview of the subject matter. And the final chapter on the literature of the Celts is a very good introduction on mythology.

Now there are a few times when I thought [huh??] in the religion and society chapters but that is to be expected no book is perfect after all, and the book could have used a few more maps really but otherwise nothing major to detract from it. I would say it is a very good book if you want to revise somethings and clear up a few others, and it is a good book to start with if you want an introduction to the Celts.

I hope this author translates more of his books or writings from German to English because he certainly has a good point of view to counter a lot that is out there.

The Rune Primer A Down-to-Earth Guide to Runes

Author: Sweyn Plowright
Publisher: Rune – Net
Published: 2006
ISBN: 9781847282460

Synopsis: Historical facts about the runes in plain English. This book looks at what we really know about them and how we know it. There is also a discussion of the popular authors of esoteric runology, and a chapter exposing the myths and misconceptions about runes perpetuated in many popular rune manuals. The Primer will provide you with a basic factual foundation of rune knowledge, and enable you to sort the useful gems from the rubbish in your future investigations.

Review: This book was a delight to read. Its aim is to discuss the runes in a brief and to the point style, to stick to known facts and established conventions taking into consideration the cultural and religious context. It fulfills those aims perfectly. The style of the writer is very simple and very readable. The simplicity is sometimes very deceptive because but the time you finish a chapter you’ve actually gotten quite a bit of information, but it was so simple it slipped into your mind with no effort.

The author gives you a very simple outline of the history of Runes, an explanation about where the names of the Elder Runes came from and how, and the different types of runes known. The book also provides the meanings for each rune and how the author got it, but what I loved the most were the chapters on known books and authors for runes and myth busting. I especially LOVED the myth busting chapter.

An excellent book to have if you are interested in Runes and it complements the book Runes by R.I. Page, because read together you get the maximum benefit with this book explaining simplistically the history in the Rune book.

Runes (Reading the Past)

Series: Reading the Past
Author: R.I. Page
Publisher:University of California Press and the British Museum
Published: 2007 (Fifth edition, Originally published in 1987)

Synopsis: In Orkney, Shetland and the Scottish Islands, in Ireland, the Isle of Man and above all in Scandinavia, travelers still come upon great memorial stones, inscribed with the curious angular alphabet called runes. This is the story of these inscriptions from the earliest Continental carvings of the late second century A.D. through to the Viking age.

Review: This is one of the shortest books I’ve read, and one of the most sarcastic (not in a good way). The author comes across as very condescending towards people who see the Runes as a magical system. Let me say this, while I do agree with the author’s point that since religion is a part of everyday life for the peoples he talks about and so that makes using the Runic alphabet as a vehicle of writing down sacred things, incantations or even use it for divination a normal part of life for them, I don’t agree wit his attitude or tone of voice but that is my bias and certainly not his problem. Having said that though, this is actually a very good and concise introduction to Runes IF you can get over the tone of the writer. The 64 pages of this book took me two days to get through when it would normally take me only half an hour to an hour tops.

The Celtic Gauls: Gods, Rites, and Sanctuaries

Author: Jean Louis Brunaux (Translated by Daphne Nash)
Copyright: French 1987, English 1988
Publishers: French – Editions Errance, Paris. English – B.A. Seaby Ltd, Great Britain.
Pages: Including index 154
ISBN 1 85264 009 X

Synopsis: This fascinating account of the Celtic Gauls, their religion and rites of life and death, war and peace, brings alive these fearsome people, whose greatest honor was to die in battle and yet who produced some of the most sensitive and spectacular works of art in European history.

Review: I managed to finish the book in one sitting.  It was that enjoyable because it was very straight forward and simple.  And unlike the previous book by Jean Louis Brunaux, this translation was done so artfully that the text just seemed to flow.

The book itself is divided into twelve chapter discussing the territory that the Gauls occupied, their sacred spaces, how they perceived time, how their society was structured, their priests, their Gods, their rites and cults, their weapons and wars, and their public cults.

The book covers all the main things that you would want to know about a people and it explains it in a very simple way.  I’m not sure if that is due to the fact that not much is known about the Gauls or if this was the intent of the author.  The point is, when you are done reading this book you are left with a general idea of who the Gauls were, how their life was, how they worshiped, what they worshiped and how they were in both war and peace time.  A very enjoyable book.

The Iron Age in Northern Britain: Celts and Romans, Natives and Invaders


Author: D.W. Harding Publisher: Routledge Copyright: 2004 Pages: 352

Synopsis: The Iron Age in Northern Britain examines the impact of the Roman expansion northwards, and the native response to the Roman occupation on both sides of the frontiers. It traces the emergence of historically-recorded communities in the post-Roman period and looks at the clash of cultures between Celts and Romans, Picts and Scots.

Northern Britain has too often been seen as peripheral to a ‘core’ located in south-eastern England.

Unlike the Iron Age in southern Britain, the story of which can be conveniently terminated with the Roman conquest, the Iron Age in northern Britain has no such horizon to mark its end. The Roman presence in southern and eastern Scotland was militarily intermittent and left untouched large tracts of Atlantic Scotland for which there is a rich legacy of Iron Age settlement, continuing from the mid-first millennium BC to the period of Norse settlement in the late first millennium AD.

Here D.W. Harding shows that northern Britain was not peripheral in the Iron Age: it simply belonged to an Atlantic European mainstream different from southern England and its immediate continental neighbours.

Review: The book is made up of five parts and eleven chapters. Some parts have only one chapter while others have two or three chapters.

Part One: This part has only one chapter but wow, what an informative one. The author talks about the aim of the book, which is to look at Northern Britain and survey what we know about it during the Iron Age. He discusses the archeological framework that we are going to be dealing with during the rest of the book. He also discusses something very important that happens to be the Celticity of Northern Britain and the question that seems to be a favorite of the British archeologist and that is; are the Celts a modern myth? The author has a reasonable logical answer to that question AND I think that in light of what this book has to say I think that Barry Cunliffe’s theory of having the Celtic beginnings away from the Hallstatt-La Tene cultures makes a little more sense too.

Part Two: Four chapters are included in this part and it is about the earlier Iron Age. Each chapter talks about the archeological record of a part of Northern Britain, and Scotland.

Part Three: This part has two chapters, and they talk about the Roman Iron Age and its impact on northern Britain.

Part Four: Three chapters that deal with the later Iron Age starting with the borders and southern Scotland and going all the way to Atlantic Scotland.

Part Five: Only one chapter that reviews all the past chapters and makes a few conclusions that sum everything else nicely.

This book is an archeological survey of Northern Britain. It has a lot of materials and also a lot of good questions which it answers in one form or another for the most part (some questions don’t have definitive answers). I found the book very interesting if a little dry. If you aren’t interested in archeological discussions supplemented lightly with classical writing then this book is not for you. In my opinion though, it does help to support Professor Barry Cunliffe’s idea of Celtic from the west in a round about way.

Facing The Ocean: The Atlantic and Its Peoples by Barry Cunliffe


Basic Book Information

Title: Facing the Ocean: The Atlantic and Its Peoples 8000 BC-AD 1500

Binding: Hardcover

Publishing Date: June 28th 2001

Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA

Page Numbers: 608 pages

ISBN Number: 0199240191 (ISBN13: 9780199240197)

Synopsis: In this highly illustrated book Barry Cunliffe focuses on the western rim of Europe–the Atlantic facade–an area stretching from the Straits of Gibraltar to the Isles of Shetland.We are shown how original and inventive the communities were, and how they maintained their own distinctive identities often over long spans of time. Covering the period from the Mesolithic hunter-gatherers, c. 8000 BC, to the voyages of discovery c. AD 1500, he uses this last half millennium more as a well-studied test case to help the reader better understand what went before. The beautiful illustrations show how this picturesque part of Europe has many striking physical similarities. Old hard rocks confront the ocean creating promontories and capes familiar to sailors throughout the millennia. Land’s End, Finistere, Finisterra–until the end of the fifteenth century this was where the world ended in a turmoil of ocean beyond which there was nothing. To the people who lived in these remote places the sea was their means of communication and those occupying similar locations were their neighbors. The communities frequently developed distinctive characteristics intensifying aspects of their culture the more clearly to distinguish themselves from their in-land neighbors. But there is an added level of interest here in that the sea provided a vital link with neighboring remote-place communities encouraging a commonality of interest and allegiances. Even today the Bretons see themselves as distinct from the French but refer to the Irish, Welsh, and Galicians as their brothers and cousins. Archaeological evidence from the prehistoric period amply demonstrates the bonds which developed and intensified between these isolated communities and helped to maintain a shared but distinctive Atlantic identity.

My Review:

I’m going to start by describing the chapters in the book, then I will tell you what I thought of the book as a whole. The book has thirteen chapters, and a guide to further reading on the subjects covered in the book.

The first three chapters discuss the land, the ocean, and ships and sailors. They were a survey of how the land and ocean look geographically interspersed with myths from different peoples in the area and what the ancient (and not so ancient) geographers thought of both. The third chapter is about sailing vessels of the different peoples and the ancient (and again not so ancient) sailors of the Atlantic Ocean.

Chapter four talk about the Mesolithic period from 7000 – 4000 BCE. It talks about mainland Europe and the Atlantic zone and all the social and economical changes that could have shaped the identity of the Atlantic Peoples. It is an amazing survey of archeology and thought provoking statements that are so simple and yet so important for example on page 134 Prof. Cunliffe says: “The extent to which a community defines its identity, to distinguish itself from others, depends on the need which it perceives to do so.” At that time the need would have been more people coming into their territory for example, but this could also be true today, where most people are looking to define themselves in one way or another.

A discussion of the religious belief systems of mainland Europe and the Atlantic Zone follows in chapter four. It was really fascinating to read how the two affected each other. The time frame this chapter talks about is between 4000 -2700 BCE.

Chapter six studies the period between 2700 – 1200 BCE. It talks about the different networks and how the availability of this network help culture spread among the indigenous people of Europe and the Atlantic zone.

The next two chapters discuss the period between 1200 – 200 BCE, each one from a different perspective. Chapter seven talks about the sailors of the two seas (the Atlantic and the Mediterranean) and how they affected each other as well as a discussion on the manufacture of metals and a brief discussion on the Celtic languages. Chapter eight is all about the identity of the Atlantic peoples.

Chapter nine is a discussion of the Roman impact on Europe. It discusses the Roman conquests of Iberia, Gaul and Britain and the goods it was able to get out of it.

The Middle Ages, the period between 200 – 800 CE was the subject of chapter ten. Cunliffe talked about the decline of Roman authority and the movements of the Germanic tribes. He also talked about the changing face of Europe, Christianity and its effect and trading.

Of course no discussion of the Atlantic is complete without the Vikings and that was what chapter eleven was all about.

Chapter twelve is about the period between 1000 – 1500 CE and all the changes Europe and the Atlantic went through during that time period.

The final chapter is a summation of all that came in the previous chapters and how they tied into each other.

Now let me talk about my impressions.

At first I was not sure what to think of the first three chapters, then I remembered how Prof. Cunliffe did the same thing in his book (which came after this one) Europe Between the Oceans. He was setting the stage for the historical stuff and giving you an idea of how the land ocean look like and later he will show you how the physical features shaped the people that live on that land and sailed that ocean.

I think what I liked most about this book was that the author was not afraid to include his conclusions (clearly stated as such) on the whys of things, like why the Vikings came raiding to give an example. I also liked the fact that while this book was obviously geared towards the layman or at least the college student the author still didn’t treat his readers as simpletons by over simplifying things. Of course I also love the way the book was full of photos, illustrations and maps. I also appreciate the further reading section at the end of the book which tells you where to look for further reading on each chapter.

IMG_0016   IMG_0017 IMG_0018

Now let us address the elephant in the room and that is the latest theory about the Celtic Origins which this book is supposed to have presented. And really, you have to look pretty hard to see it. I’m going to make it easy on you and tell you that it can be found in chapter seven. Cunliffe gives you the short version of it when he is summing up his book in the last chapter and I’m quoting here:

“It was, no doubt, during this first cycle of maritime contact that a lingua franca developed allowing travelers by sea to communicate one with another. If, as we might reasonably suppose, the ships were the prerogative of the elite, then the language which evolved over the millennia would have become the language of the elite. In such a situation the disparate languages which might have been spoken before contact intensified would soon have converged to become a similar tongue, understandable throughout the lands of the Atlantic facade. By the first millennium BCE the common language spoken across most of the region was a branch of Indo-European known, since the seventeenth century, as ‘Celtic’ – the language which still survives, though in modified form, in parts of Scotland, Ireland, Wales, the Isle of Man, and Brittany.”

Basically he is saying look more closely to the Atlantic maritime networks for the development of the Celtic languages as opposed to Central Europe. Koch says it best in his 2009 book:

“Barry Cunliffe, 2001, 261-310, has proposed the origins of the Celtic languages should be sought in the maritime networks of the Atlantic Zone, which reached their peak of intensity in the Late Bronze Age and then fell off sharply at the Bronze-Iron Transition (IXth-VIIth centuries BC).”

Should we jump on this theories band wagon? Well, let’s see. Some linguists are happy with it but most are not. Most geneticists though are VERY happy with it. I would suggest keeping it in mind when reading books in the future, it is a plausible theory but without more information and more evidence this theory is just that. A theory. John Koch’s 2009 book on a language called Tartessian, which was spoken in Southern Spain, identifies it as Celtic, and this seems to support the Cunliffe theory but there has been no real challenge or agreement with this from other quarters (at least not that I have heard off, if you have something please let me know). So basically the jury is still out…

In the end here is what I want to say. If you are looking for a more rounded book on the history of Europe then I would suggest Europe Between the Oceans, which is an amazing tomb that came after this book. It doesn’t out right talk about this theory but is very obviously colored by it. If however you are more specific and want to read about the history of the Atlantic peoples alone then this book is very much for you, just don’t expect a lot of talk about the Celts alone, they are one group but not the only group in that part of the world.