|HARPER COLLINS PUBLISHERS|
the guardian Tue 31 January 2012
"In post-war years town centre developers did as much damage to Britain's historic towns and cities as Nazi aircraft," declares the archaeologist Francis Pryor (of TV's Time Team) in this chatty, rather rambling book, the last in his four-volume archaeological history of Britain. A prehistorian by trade, Pryor makes the case for modern archaeology: instead of digging up flints, potsherds and old bones, he goes in search of pillboxes and other second world war defensive works, as well as old mines, mills and machines. Pryor's emphasis is on social change as much as technology, and he is sceptical about the word "progress". Just look at the damage done to our recent past: the Euston Arch demolished in the 1960s, the same decade in which Dr Beeching destroyed our once-great railway network; and from about 1950-90 some 400,000kms of hedgerow were obliterated. And it was the threat posed by new motorways in the 1980s, he says, that transformed British archaeology from "disconnected groups of amateurs to a properly structured profession".