Close Notification

Your cart does not contain any items

The Debatable Land: The Lost World Between Scotland and England

Graham Robb



In stock
Ready to ship


26 February 2019
History; British & Irish history; Historical geography; Travel writing
The Debatable Land was an independent territory which used to exist between Scotland and England. It is the oldest detectable territorial division in Great Britain. At the height of its notoriety, it was the bloodiest region in the country, and preoccupied the monarchs and parliaments of England, Scotland, and France. After most of its population was slaughtered or deported, it became the last part of Great Britain to be conquered and brought under the control of a state. Today, it has vanished from the map and no one knows exactly where and what it was.

When Graham Robb moved to a lonely house on the very edge of England, he discovered that the river which almost surrounded his new home had once marked the Debatable Land's southern boundary. Under the powerful spell of curiosity, Robb began a journey - on foot, by bicycle and into the past - that would uncover lost towns and roads, shed new light on the Dark Age, reveal the truth about this maligned patch of land, and lead to more than one discovery of major historical significance.

For the first time - and with all of his customary charm, wit and literary grace - Graham Robb, prize-winning author of The Discovery of France, has written about his native country. The Debatable Land is an epic and energetic book that takes us from 2016 back to an age when neither England nor Scotland could be imagined to reveal a crucial, missing piece in the puzzle of British history.
By:   Graham Robb
Imprint:   Picador
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 197mm,  Width: 130mm,  Spine: 25mm
Weight:   278g
ISBN:   9781509804719
ISBN 10:   1509804714
Pages:   416
Publication Date:   26 February 2019
Recommended Age:   From 18 years
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active
Section - i: List of Illustrations Section - ii: List of Figures Section - iii: A Guide to Pronunciation Unit - 1: PART ONE Chapter - 1: Hidden Places Chapter - 2: Outpost Chapter - 3: Panic Button Chapter - 4: The True and Ancient Border Chapter - 5: `The Sewer of Abandoned Men' Chapter - 6: Mouldywarp Chapter - 7: Beachcombing Unit - 2: PART TWO Chapter - 8: Blind Roads Chapter - 9: Harrowed Chapter - 10: `Loveable Custumis' Chapter - 11: Accelerated Transhumance Chapter - 12: Skurrlywarble Chapter - 13: Exploratores Chapter - 14: Windy Edge Chapter - 15: `In Tymis Bigane' Unit - 3: PART THREE Chapter - 16: 'Stob and Staik' Chapter - 17: `Rube, Burne, Spoyll, Slaye, Murder annd Destrewe' Chapter - 18: The Final Partition Chapter - 19: Hector of ye Harlawe Chapter - 20: Scrope Chapter - 21: Tarras Moss Chapter - 22: `A Factious and Naughty People' Chapter - 23: Silence Unit - 4: PART FOUR Chapter - 24: Graticules Chapter - 25: The Kingdom of Selgovia Chapter - 26: `Arthur' Chapter - 27: The Great Caledonian Invasion Chapter - 28: Polling Stations Chapter - 29: No Man's Land Chapter - 30: The River Section - iv: Appendix Section - v: Chronology Section - vi: Notes Section - vii: Works Cited Index - viii: General Index Index - ix: Geographical Index Acknowledgements - x: Acknowledgements

Graham Robb was born in Manchester in 1958 and is a former Fellow of Exeter College, Oxford. He has published widely on French literature and history. His 2007 book The Discovery of France won both the Duff Cooper and Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prizes. For Parisians (2010) the City of Paris awarded him the Grande Medaille de la Ville de Paris. He lives on the English-Scottish border.

Reviews for The Debatable Land: The Lost World Between Scotland and England

This story is packed with enough mystery, violence, romance, and personal discovery to satisfy any fan of Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, or - for that matter-Bill Bryson . . . Both timely and timeless. * Village Voice * Rising from this roving, poetic account, which dips in and out of memoir, anecdote and history, is a sense of loosely documented but fierce regional drama . . . Throughout, Robb unpicks ballads and legends - the stuff of old propaganda - with a warm but pleasingly sceptical approach. His search throws up surprises. Reading this book at times resembles a ramble through richly tangled terrain with a guide who is joyously diverted by discovery . . . Its paths deserve to be retaken slowly, chapter by chapter - but the walk is always worthwhile. -- Jenny McCartney * Mail on Sunday * It is three-parts history (as you would expect of Robb's historical pedigree) and one-part nature writing. A vision of a marginal place (or at least marginal to the urban centres, not to itself of course) through time, written against a backdrop of both the 2014 independence referendum and the 2016 Brexit vote -- Teddy Jamieson * Herald (Scotland) * Innovative methodology, rejection of mythology, precise expression . . . such a wonderful book -- Harry McGrath * Scottish Review of Books * Travelogue, history and elucidation, this book is one of timely exploration. Going backwards, it goes forwards and there are many felicities along the way . . . The Debatable Land has excellent illustrations and indices. Elegant and with learning lightly worn, it is, in every respect, an exemplary and topical book, a perfect paradigm of its kind. -- Ross Leckie * Country Life * An original and surprising book . . . he ranges with admirable ease over the centuries . . . Robb doesn't move far from his new home, yet this is a travel book, with a journey in time as well as space . . . the twists and turns of imagined and reimagined history brood over this richly wonderful book -- Allan Massie * The Oldie * Graham Robb, apart from being a distinguished historian, biographer and literary critic, is one of our most accomplished travel writers . . . he bicycles with the speed and ferocity of a Scottish reiver through these lost flatlands of history -- Hugh Thomson * Spectator * Diverting asides animate Robb's revelatory account of this oft-overlooked and understudied part of the United Kingdom . . . The Debatable Land ends with a brace of discoveries. The first is a key to understanding Ptolemy's second-century map of Britain, hitherto thought inaccurate, which will surely be invaluable to future historians. The second is the earliest account told from a British point of view of a major battle in these islands. This is all fascinating. -- Alan Taylor * Literary Review * This is a book written as much on the road as in the library . . . Robb's book is both a scholarly work of revisionism and an entertaining read . . . One of the pleasures of this book is to watch Robb, like a frontier dodging reiver, slip between past and present, between manuscript and moor, between battlefield site and the 127 bus -- Michael Kerr * Daily Telegraph * It's a book worth reading . . . it contains several glories, much fine writing and the odd (very odd) wonder. -- Andrew Marr * Sunday Times * Scholarly nonfiction written with novelistic flair . . . The Debatable Land was neither English nor Scottish but a law unto itself, and it became notorious as the centre of reiver violence . . . But Robb, like a conjuror, gradually shows us the Debatable Land as something else . . . his exploration of its history is punctuated by some terrific nature writing * Observer * A detective outing on native soil. Armed with energy, humour, a poet's eye and a bicycle - all things his fans will be familiar with - Robb probes the received wisdoms of the past . . . His skill as a writer is to understand, without being fey, the fourth dimension: peeling back the modern landscape to find buried stories * The Times * Graham Robb is a remarkable writer . . . [his work] displays curiosity, intellectual vitality, wide-ranging sympathies, and a keen eye for unexpected detail. This new book will fascinate everyone with a knowledge of the geography, history, mythology and character of the Anglo-Scottish borderlands . . . No short review can do justice to the intelligence, charm, variety and sheer interest of this book. Read it, and you will be richly entertained and enlightened. * The Scotsman * Sorting out the fact from the fiction in this history is one of Robb's tasks. He tackles some serious misconceptions about the borderland . . . Robb intercuts the past and present, the intimate and the impersonal, to wonderful effect. Few authors write so well about things lost and neglected - or have such sharp ears and eyes for the natural world -- Ian Jack * Guardian *

  • Long-listed for HWA Non Fiction Crown 2018 (UK)
  • Long-listed for The Gordon Burn Prize 2018 (UK)
  • Short-listed for HWA Non Fiction Crown 2018 (UK)
  • Short-listed for Lakeland Book of the Year 2019 (UK)

See Also