Arthur Bryant: monstrous chronicler of Merrie England

If you want to judge how much society has changed, you might do worse than visit a few secondhand bookshops. Obsolete volumes rest undisturbed on their shelves. The more popular they once were, the more unwanted copies accumulate. An almost inevitable presence nowadays is Sir Arthur Bryant, in his time a bestselling writer on historical subjects but now slumbering among the Great Unread. To browse in one of his books is a nostalgic experience. Their very titles — English Saga, for example, or Set in a Silver Sea — are evocative. They tell ‘our island story’, of an idealised agrarian past populated by merry monarchs, honest yeomen farmers, sturdy John