Tracing the Northern Story: Dinosaurs, Emperors, and Brexit with Brian Groom
by Northern Life
In his captivating book 'Northerners', award-winning journalist Brian Groom takes readers on an extraordinary journey spanning 180 million years of Northern history.
From the ancient era of dinosaurs to the complex world of Roman emperors and the modern-day challenges of Brexit, Groom expertly unravels the rich tapestry of the North’s past and present.
Painting a vivid picture of the region’s evolution from the earliest known inhabitants to the present day, Groom skilfully weaves together narratives of Iron Age Britain, Roman conquests, the Anglo-Saxon era, Viking invasions, the Middle Ages, Tudor reign, the Industrial Revolution, and the modern era.
But ‘Northerners’ is more than just a narrative history. Groom goes beyond facts and figures, emphasising the experiences and perspectives of the people who shaped the North. Through captivating storytelling, he shines a light on the lives of influential Northern women such as Cartimandua, the Queen of Brigantes – “the first northerner known by name.”
The Brigantes, an Iron Age tribe, held a prominent position during the Roman conquest. Cartimandua, their Queen, emerged as a remarkable figure in history. Despite her initial success in maintaining her territory’s independence from Roman rule for nearly three decades, Cartimandua eventually collaborated with the Romans.
“Another revelation in ‘Northerners’ is the surprising number of Roman Emperors hailing from York.”
This decision led to her overthrow. “Astonishingly, she’s so forgotten,” Brian says. “She’s a fascinating figure and ought to be as famous as Boudica or Cleopatra, but she’s not, possibly because she was portrayed as a betrayer of British men. Boudica is a resistance heroine, while Cartimandua is more complex.
Delving into the human stories behind these northerners creates an emotional tale of loss and heroism throughout time, connecting readers with the past and their history.”
When I started thinking about this ten years ago,” Brian explains. “I was astonished to discover that there had only ever been one general history of the North published in 1990, so it seemed like a gap and an opportunity. I thought there was room for a much more people-focused narrative, so that was a prime aim in writing this book.”
Another revelation in ‘Northerners’ is the surprising number of Roman Emperors hailing from York. While many are aware of Constantine the Great due to his statue outside the Minster, the prominence of other Roman Emperors from York has gone unnoticed.
Groom’s meticulous research uncovered the presence of at least six or seven Roman Emperors with ties to the region, including Centinius Severus. This revelation adds a fascinating layer to York’s rich history, further solidifying its status as a city of imperial significance.
Undertaking the research for ‘Northerners’ was a labour of love for Groom. Over several years, he delved deep into historical archives, exploring countless rabbit holes to uncover hidden gems and untold stories.
The unexpected silver lining of the COVID-19 lockdown was the uninterrupted time it provided for Groom to focus on completing the book. “I started speeding up around 2019, and the first lockdown became an absolute godsend!” Groom explains.
Groom astutely questions the need for more homogenous, cookie-cutter towns across Britain. He said, “Surely, Britain already has enough clone towns.”
As a native Northerner, Groom’s connection to the region influenced his writing. The book was conceived a decade ago, fuelled by his passion for history and his background in journalism. Groom’s upbringing in Stretford and subsequent return to Saddleworth have allowed him to witness the transformation of the North, contributing to his understanding of the region’s changing landscape and cultural dynamics.
In the book’s thought-provoking postscript, Groom addresses the enduring North/South divide and the futile attempts by politicians to dismiss its significance. Thatcher’s audacious claim that the divide no longer existed shortly after the closure of the mines serves as a poignant example. Groom aptly describes the North with the unfulfilled promises of economic parity as resembling the “back end of a pantomime horse.” He emphasises that true transformation must come from within the North, fuelled by its people’s talents, determination, and entrepreneurial spirit.
However, when addressing the cultural divide, Groom astutely questions the need for more homogenous, cookie-cutter towns across Britain. He said, “Surely, Britain already has enough clone towns.” This statement underscores the importance of preserving and celebrating the unique cultural heritage of our notable towns and cities rather than striving to resemble London.
‘Northerners’ is a must-read.’
In essence, Groom’s closing chapter is a call to action, highlighting the vital role that Northerners themselves must play in shaping their future rather than relying solely on the promises and rhetoric of politicians.
So, whether you are a history enthusiast, a proud Northerner, or simply seeking a captivating literary experience, ‘Northerners’ is a must-read that will transport you through time and leave you with a profound appreciation for the North’s enduring spirit.
While ‘Northerners’ beautifully captures the historical and cultural essence of the North, Groom is already hard at work on his next book. Although details are yet to be announced by the publisher, Groom has confirmed that it will be another history book infused with rich cultural elements. Readers can eagerly anticipate another immersive journey through time, guided by Groom’s unique storytelling and meticulous research.
Northerners by Brian Groom is available now for £20. Published by HarperNorth.