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Imperial Mud


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A post-colonial history of the destruction of the Fens of eastern England.

About the Author

James Boyce is a multi-award-winning Australian historian. His first book, Van Diemen's Land, was described by Richard Flanagan as 'the most significant colonial history since The Fatal Shore'. 1835: The Founding of Melbourne and the Conquest of Australia was The Age's Book of the Year, while Born Bad: Original Sin and the Making of the Western World was hailed by The Washington Post as 'an exhilarating work of popular scholarship'.


Like Patagonia, 'the Fens' has no precise border. This bountiful wetland on the English east coast is a region that most maps cover with a blank. In a masterful and painstaking act of retrieval, James Boyce reclaims the landscape of his fiercely independent forebears. The Fennish, like most indigenous people, left few written records - an absence that makes Imperial Mud even more valuable, as a celebration of their centuries-long resistance against drainage and enclosing landlords; and, above all, of their utterly passionate relationship with the 'common' marsh through which they defined their identity. -- Nicholas Shakespeare
Boyce tells the tale with that rare but always winning combination of passion and scholarly vigour. * Geographical Magazine (Book of the Month) *
A real page-turner ... a warning about what happens when the rich and powerful dress up their avarice as "progress" - a lesson we could do with learning today. -- Dixe Wills * BBC Countryfile magazine *
Evocative and imaginatively argued * Sydney Morning Herald, 'Pick of the Week' *
A wonderful example of history writing embedded in the narratives of place, in this instance the Fenlands of England and its people, both dramatically altered in the name of dubious progress. * Australian Book Review, Books of the Year 2020 *
A lively, affectionate, colourful account of individuals from all walks of life living their lives and particularly standing up for themselves with passion, control and careful planning. -- Natalie Bennett * Resurgence & Ecologist *
In telling the story of the people and the lost wetlands, Boyce has provided robust scholarship and rigour which combines with passionate writing to bring the account to a wider audience. In short this volume is incredibly readable as well as being wonderfully entertaining, and not least, informative. -- Ian D. Rotherham * Environment and History *

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