You, Me, and the Deep Blue Sea

Matthew Green explores Britain’s ghost towns and drowned settlements

Skara Brae (Flickr/Mike McBey)
Skara Brae (Flickr/Mike McBey)

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.

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Stephanie Bastek is the senior editor of the Scholar and the producer/host of the Smarty Pants podcast.


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