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What to expect

A Waterstones ‘Book You Need to Read in 2022’

The definitive history of the North of England as told through the lives of its inhabitants.

A work of unrivalled scale and ambition, Northerners is the defining biography of northern England.

This authoritative new history of place and people lays out the dramatic events that created the north – waves of migration, invasions and battles, and transformative changes wrought on European culture and the global economy. In a sweeping narrative that takes us from the earliest times to the present day, the book shows that the people of the north have shaped Britain and the world in unexpected ways.

At least six Roman emperors ruled from York. The Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria was Europe’s leading cultural and intellectual centre. Cartimandua, Queen of the Brigantes, deserves to be as famous as Boudica. Neanderthals and Vikings, Central European Jews, African-Caribbeans and South Asians, have all played their part in the making and remaking of the north. Northern writers, activists, artists and comedians are celebrated the world over, from Wordsworth, the Brontes and Gaskell to LS Lowry, Emmeline Pankhurst and Peter Kay. St Oswald and Bede shaped the spiritual and cultural landscapes of Britain and Europe, and the world was revolutionised by the inventions of Richard Arkwright and the Stephensons. The north has exported some of sport’s biggest names and defined the sound of generations, from the Beatles to Britpop.

Northerners also shows convincingly how the past echoes down the centuries. The devastation of factory and pit closures in the 1980s, for example, recalled the trauma of William the Conqueror’s Harrying of the North. The book charts how the north-south divide has ebbed and flowed and explores the very real divisions between northerners, such as the rivalry between Lancashire and Yorkshire.

Finally, Brian Groom explores what northernness means today and the crucial role the north can play in Britain’s future. As new forces threaten the fabric of the UK again, this landmark book could scarcely be more timely.

Critics Review

  • ‘Entertaining and informative. … Avoids sentimentality and stereotypes. … Groom keeps his history admirably down to earth.’ The Times, Book of the Week

    ‘A rich and kaleidoscopic history of a region, its landscape, industries, culture and people. Northerners is rigorous, digressive, discursive, always entertaining and enlightening, as full of good things as the North itself.’ Stuart Maconie, author of Pies and Prejudice

    ‘A wonderful compendium of the North’s proud, deep, ancient otherness.’ James Hawes, author of The Shortest History of England

    ‘Brian Groom is one of the most respected journalists of his generation – an essential writer on politics and business and a tireless champion of the north.’ George Parker, political editor, Financial Times 

    ‘A measured and essential voice in these compromised times.’ Adam Boulton, editor-at-large at Sky News and presenter of All Out Politics

    ‘Few people are better placed to write the story of northerners. One of journalism’s most astute observers of the state of Britain.’ Helen Pidd, North of England editor, The Guardian

    ‘Brian Groom is one of the leading experts on Britain’s regions and nations and a perceptive analyst.’ Duncan Weldon, The Economist, author of Two Hundred Years of Muddling Through

    ‘Panoramic, authoritative and a beautiful read. Brian has written the book everyone who wishes to understand the north of England must read.’ Sebastian Payne, author of Broken Heartlands

    ‘I loved this book. Textured, rich, informative, it is a timely reminder that England is nothing without its differences. Groom meticulously charts a history and people, reflecting back at the rest of Britain England’s great glorious exception – The North.’ Tessa Dunlop, historian and author of Army Girls

    ‘We always knew we were special.’ Martin Sixsmith, author of Philomena

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