A New History Of England’s Front Line County
It is obvious from the briefest glance at a map of Britain that Sussex, located at its southern fringes, must always have borne the brunt of attack and invasion from without. For Professor Philip Payton, the author of a brand new book, A History of Sussex, this accident of geography has been one of the key factors in shaping the county’s history, although by no means the only one.
Armies, smugglers, traders, migrants and settlers; all have landed on Sussex shores. Some of these ‘invasions’ have been benign, adding to the life and culture of the county, while others have been violent and devastating.
And yet it has always been, and still is today, a terribly English place: pastoral and in many ways genteel; rich in history, with much of it still evident today; quintessentially the England that draws so many to these isles from overseas. And this despite its sometimes turbulent past – or perhaps it is because of it. Maybe threats to a population’s territory, way of life and culture make it more aware of its identity, and thus more determined to retain it.
Whatever the truth, the history of Sussex is long, varied and fascinating, and Philip Payton has captured it in one comprehensive, highly entertaining, excellently researched and beautifully produced volume. The story starts with ancient peoples, moving on to the Romans and Saxons and 1066, and on to the Peasants’ Revolt, the Tudors and Stuarts, and the Victorians. Looking at wars, literature, industry and tourism, Philip brings the reader to the present, and reflects on what the county is today.
The publishers knew from the beginning that they had a great book on their hands: “We have hugely enjoyed putting this book together, marrying Philip’s wonderfully readable text with some brilliant images, to produce something that is genuinely appealing to anyone with an interest in the history not only of Sussex, but of Great Britain too. It is one of those books that rarely comes along, and it will definitely be around for many years to come.”
This history of the great county of Sussex is a masterly piece of work. Combining sound academic research with a genuine talent for writing, Professor Payton in this superbly produced volume tells the story of Sussex from ancient times to the present day, exploring many fascinating themes.
“In writing this book I have been struck by just how much Sussex history is ‘invasion’ and fear of invasion. From those early hunter-gatherers to twenty-first-century migrants, such ‘invasions’ have often been enriching. But there have also been invasions on the grand scale, bringing death and destruction and sometimes wholesale upheavals in governance, religion and culture. Which brings us to another strong theme: violence. Civil conflict, again detectable from earliest times, has been a regular feature of Sussex life, and the Civil War itself had a particular and vivid Sussex dimension. Most astonishing of all, perhaps, is the violence endemic in the Sussex countryside in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries – encompassing smuggling, mutinies, riots, and protests – an aspect of the county’s past that has almost disappeared from popular memory.”
Above all, Sussex, with its rich history, pastoral and coastal beauty, and iconic towns and villages, is quintessentially and uncompromisingly English; the ‘real England’ of popular imagination, and the enduring ‘land of the South Saxons’.
A History of Sussex is brilliantly readable, beautifully illustrated and comprehensive, and will be a must for anyone interested in the history of Sussex, or indeed Great Britain. Destined to become a classic.
A History of Sussex is 320 pages, lavishly illustrated in full colour throughout, and has been produced in paperback to make it widely affordable.
Available from 25th September 2017
A History of Sussex by Philip Payton is published by Carnegie Publishing in paperback, price £19.99 (ISBN 978-1-85936-232-7). Available from good booksellers or direct from the publishers by phoning 01524 840111 or visiting www.carnegiepublishing.com (phone/web discount)
If you buy direct from the publisher you can receive a 20% discount off the cover price using the code SX20PP.