Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Celts: History, Life, and Culture

When Celtic lands are discussed, Wales often receives rather less attention than its Celtic companions Ireland and Scotland.  The two volumes of The Celts: History, Life, and Culture take steps to remedy that, as they are a project of the Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies at the University of Wales, in collaboration with the publisher, ABC CLIO.  That’s not to say Ireland, Scotland, Brittany, and places where Celtic culture is dispersed across the world are left out: indeed not, there are many articles on all sorts of Celtic subjects, written by an international cadre of scholars.

The writing is of quite high level, too, for the most part holding interest whether one’s background is general or scholarly. Adding to interest are the sometimes unexpected perspectives. While there is  a good bit of material to do with, for example, Ireland, Irish emigration is treated and cross referenced under entries to with Irish language. Another useful aspect is that heroes of legend and myth, King Arthur for instance, are often traced through appearances and connections in all the differing Celtic cultures.

The articles vary in length  from a few hundred words to several thousand, and are arranged alphabetically. There’s also quite an interesting bibliography divided by subject matter.  A list of contributing scholars is included, but a note of their affiliations or backgrounds would have added to the value of the work, as would brief pronunciation guides to the languages involved. I say that being fairly familiar with Irish, Scottish Gaelic, and French, but finding these not of much help with understanding how  Welsh or Breton is spoken, and thinking others might find themselves in a similar situation. The pages used for the table of contents, not really necessary in a alphabetically arranged work, could perhaps have been used for these things.

That said. these are useful, interesting, and readable volumes with information that will inspire further exploration and give guidance as to direction to take with that. These two volumes of The Celts: History, Life, and Culture would be a welcome addition to any reference collection.

you may also wish to see
Reading Ireland: Companion to Irish Traditional Music
music from Wales: Fernhill

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posted by Kerry Dexter at


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