In Great Britain, some 3,000 villages and towns disappeared in the Middle Ages due to the effects of the Black Death alone. Zoom out on the time scale, then factor in storms and floods, economic or social shifts, climate change, and war, and the number of abandoned settlements balloons. The historian and broadcaster Matthew Green selected eight to visit in his new book, Shadowlands: A Journey Through Britain’s Lost Cities and Vanished Villages. From the mysterious Neolithic ruins of Skara Brae and the medieval city that fell off a cliff, Green takes us to the militarized STANTA villages of Norfolk and drowned Capel Celyn in the 20th century. As man-made climate change causes ever more extreme weather events and threatens to engulf our coastal cities, these places become more than a memorial to the past—but a harbinger of the future that awaits us.
Go beyond the episode:
- Matthew Green’s Shadowlands: A Journey Through Britain’s Lost Cities and Vanished Villages
- And if you’re closer to London than we are, take a walking tour with Green featuring medieval wine, ghosts, gin, or coffee
- There may be no more people on St. Kilda, but there sure are sheep: meet the Soay and Boreray breeds of this little land and buy some of their wool
- Perhaps if you’re lucky, you too can spot the ruined spires of Dunwich on a tour of the Suffolk coast
- Capel Ceylin and the STANTA villages are a precursor to our future in more ways than one: though it’s commonly said that just 100 companies are responsible for 71 percent of global emissions, the military’s role as an obstacle to meaningful environmental policy is rarely mentioned. The U.S. military is the single largest consumer of oil in the world, and militaries around the world contribute some six percent of global emissions—though countries aren’t required to count armed forces data in their annual totals.
- Meet Giraldus Cambrensis, or Gerald of Wales to his friends—and the writer of some of the earliest descriptions of the British landscape. Read him on Ireland in 1187, Wales in 1191, and Wales again in 1194.
- What did medieval wine taste like? Whip up a recipe from Liber de Vinis to find out
- Matthew of Paris wrote and illustrated a history of 13th-century Britain, which you can read in this beautiful modern edition
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