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The Druids (2007)

by Ronald Hutton

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902261,484 (4.05)2
Arguing that the sources for the ancient druids are too few and unreliable to establish any certainties, Hutton reverses the traditional balance of interest to look at the many ways in which Druids have been imagined in Britain since 1500.
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I expected "The Druids: A History" to be a history of the druids. Silly me.

It turns out that this book is actually about how society has considered the druids over the last 500 years or so; showing how our beliefs about what druids were and did has changed over time, and their connections (if any) to the ancient megaliths scattered around the Britain.

It includes Tacitus' great description of the druids at Anglesey and Hutton is not without humour but I can't say that this is the book I wanted to read about druids. ( )
  MiaCulpa | Jul 17, 2017 |
This is apparently the first of two books on the subject to be written by Hutton and the more accessible, less scholarly version. Seems Hutton has been getting lots of letters from people who want to read his books but find them "too hard." *sigh* I find that extremely sad. And I can't wait for the longer, more scholarly, extensively noted version. Not that this wasn't interesting--it was. It made me want him to delve further into some of the issues he brought up, such as how it's extremely difficult to know exactly what it was the Druids did, given that all written accounts were not only by the Romans, but that exactly ONE was contemporary with any Druids at all, and that would be Julius Caesar, who had a notable and well-known bias against them.

One of the reason I enjoy Hutton's books is that he tends to question ideas that are considered facts when they need questioning. If the evidence is lacking, he points out what's necessary as well as the flaws and why these "facts" may not be so. Did Druids truly incite the Celts to rebel against the Romans? Nice idea and one that we love so much, but there's no evidence to support it. Even human sacrifice remains unproved to Hutton (personally, I think it's pretty likely, but this is why I want the more in-depth book).

This is a very good introduction to Druids, and is even quite good for those who know a fair amount about them (like me). He takes us through the historical Druids, the scholars of Druids, the various interpretations of what people have used the Druids to stand for, the Druid revival of the seventeenth century, right up through the neo-Druid movements of today. It's a good, interesting read. ( )
1 vote PirateJenny | Jul 31, 2007 |
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Arguing that the sources for the ancient druids are too few and unreliable to establish any certainties, Hutton reverses the traditional balance of interest to look at the many ways in which Druids have been imagined in Britain since 1500.

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