Books

Books : reviews

Glyn Daniel.
Some Small Harvest: memoirs.
Thames and Hudson. 1986

During the 1950s archaeology, hitherto the preserve of specialists and scholars, came out of the cloister and into the market place. The man with a fair claim to be at the centre of this cultural revolution was Glyn Daniel, the urbane and all-knowing chairman of Animal, Vegetable, Mineral? and the presiding genius of many other television programmes including Buried Treasure and Chronicle.

Who was this quizzical expert on ancient megaliths who had suddenly been thrust under the spotlight? He was not most people’s idea of a Cambridge don. He was not shy, he was not retiring, and no one could call him unworldly. Born among the farms and villages of South Wales, he became a Fellow of St John’s College, Cambridge, and had spent most of the war with the RAF in India organizing the photographic side of military intelligence. Back in Cambridge, he was enjoying a modest renown as the author of definitive works on the chamber tombs of Western Europe and as an innovating Steward of St John’s, whose wine list attracted attention beyond his own High Table.

Becoming TV Personality of the Year in 1955 did not transform his life. He went on producing archaeological books of impeccable scholarship. He became editor of the archaeologists’ quarterly bible, Antiquity, and of a famous series of studies that has now passed its 100th volume, Ancient Peoples and Places. He travelled, lectured and excavated, combining these intellectual pursuits with a healthy appreciation of the pleasures of the table. He made a host of friends and a few foes. He was in at the birth of Anglia Television and he wrote three detective stories.

It has been a full and varied life, and Glyn Daniel has relished every phase of it. At its heart is the story of academic archaeology in England, and especially in Cambridge, but it can expand to take in larger issues, such as the history of archaeological studies and their importance for our understanding of man; prehistoric art; and the series of archaeological frauds that have shaken both the British and French establishments. On all these topics, Glyn Daniel has much to say that is thoughtful, serious and new. Seriousness, however, is constantly being threatened by hilarity; the procession of anecdotes – perceptive, wry, irresistible – begins in his childhood, gains momentum with his experiences of Cambridge and India, and continues undimmed into the years of eminence as Disney Professor, tutor to the Prince of Wales and scourge of the lunatic fringe. For half a century he has enriched not only the British archaeological scene but the lives of all who care for the past.

Glyn Daniel.
The Cambridge Murders.
Back-in-print Books. 1945

Glyn Daniel.
Welcome Death.
Back-in-print Books. 1954