When David Birmingham, a professor of history, retired from the University of Kent, he thought it would be fun to train as a Canterbury city guide. He soon became fascinated by the city's past and, after a lifetime of studying Africa - from the Iron Age onwards - he developed a particular interest in the prehistory of the Canterbury area. This early history is barely mentioned in guidebooks which tend to start in 43 AD with the coming of the Romans, or even in 597 when Pope Gregory's missionaries arrived to revive Christianity. David delved into archaeological reports and synthesised their findings into a readable narrative, designed to appeal to a wide readership. His book tells of ancient 'Celtic' peoples who traded far and wide in great oak Bronze Age boats, such as the one unearthed in Dover. It paints a picture of hill-fort inhabitants, whose lifestyle can be reconstructed from the chariot wheel-hubs, horse bridals, and tools they left behind when the Romans invaded. It shows how Canterbury with its great classical theatre and a prestigious city wall became a major Roman settlement. The city declined after the legions withdrew around 410 A.D. but Romanised Britons remained in countryside villas with decorated mosaic floors.
The Jutes and other Saxon peoples who sought a new Kentish homeland produced magnificent jewellery which belies suggestions that theirs was a primitive 'dark age'. In a lively and accessible way, this book tells the story of the diverse and colourful people who occupied Canterbury before the Normans.