Published in 1986 to augment a BBC television series, The Celts, the book proved timely. Celtic imagery had begun to find its way into popular culture; Celtic warriors had surfaced in cult fantasy books and comics; music with traditional sounds from Ireland and Brittany and Scotland had begun to be called 'Celtic'. The world seemed to be acknowledging that this early people had a mighty place in the formation of Europe - yet all the information about this civilization remained in the realm of the academic. Some books had been published (with lavish photography but cautious text) and many books had been derived from university studies, historical, linguistic, archaeological. But I wanted to read something accessible, a book that would tell me, in essence, whether I had indeed descended from these emphatic and slightly magical people. When the BBC invited me to write and present the television series, the book seemed a natural option.
"They have been called 'one of the greatest barbarian peoples of the world'. An impression of the Celts persists that portrays them as wild, excitable, ferocious and uncivilized - in their latter manifestations much given to drink, song and entertainment. In truth, despite their numerical smallness, they made a major and exciting contribution to western civilization, as Frank Delaney shows in his new book, a companion to the BBC2 television series.
The Celts is a personal quest in which Delaney discovers the truth about his forefathers. Beginning in the plains of Hungary, through Austria, Switzerland, southern Germany and France, into Scotland, Wales and the west of Ireland, he traces the origins, growth, flowering and eventual decline of a people whose very name conjures romance and adventure.
In this first major popular book on the subject, Delaney brushes away the cliches and feyness of the Celts and describes a people once so significant and powerful that they sacked Rome, penetrated the sacred heart of Greece by pillaging Delphi and attracted the name 'the fathers of Europe'.
With lavish colour and black and white illustrations, The Celts is far more than the book of the television series, extending beyond the six BBC2 programmes. With the enthusiasm that hallmarks his two previous books, James Joyce's Odyssey and Betjeman Country, Frank Delaney once again informs as he entertains."
From a (Welsh) online reader...
"An interesting history of the 'Fathers of Europe', tracing their migration from the plains of Hungary to the Celtic Fringe countries of today. An insightful account of their thinking and culture, although the whole book is highly biased in favour of Irish history as oppose to a true balanced view of the Celts as a whole. Would recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in ancient history."
Still in print in paperback; the hardback is currently out of print, but may be available at secondhand and antiquarian bookshops and websites. Links to Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk are provided above.
The Public Domain Review (a fresh, classic and polished on-line portal into the rich, lush world of content in the public domain) commissioned Frank to write about his beloved James Joyce (in time for Bloomsday); Beatrix Potter, on whom Frank had done a delightful and affectionate BBC documentary some years ago; and the marvelous English artist, Eric Ravilious. We've gathered them here for you:
Frank illuminates the visual nature of James Joyce's prose and suggests the value in making a conscious effort to see the words on the page, rather than merely to read them. Seeing Joyce
In this edition Frank's delightful piece on BP, enhanced it with the most charming photographs and illustrations. On Beatrix Potter
Time and Place: Eric Ravilious. Frank suggests that the watercolors and woodcuts of Eric Ravilious captured not only the time and topography of the country, but the personality of England between-the-wars. Eric Ravilious