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Heart of Albion Press was founded in 1989 by Bob Trubshaw to publish Leicestershire and Rutland local history. By the mid-1990s titles had diversified into archaeology and mythology. In September 2002 Heart of Albion launched Explore Books, a series of books providing accessible overviews of the latest academic thinking relating to folklore, mythology and social history. In June 2004 a further imprint, Alternative Albion was launched to promote titles with more overtly counter-culture interest.
Why 'Heart of Albion'?
The term 'Heart of Albion' was apparently first used by Paul Devereux in 1975 in the title of two articles about Leicestershire (a heart-shaped county situated just above the middle of England) written for The Ley Hunter magazine. Back in 1989 when Heart of Albion Press was founded with the intention of publishing titles about Leicestershire local history this metaphor seemed particularly appropriate, especially as Wymeswold (where Heart of Albion was founded) is situated in the 'cleft' of the heart shape.
Why 'Alternative Albion'?
The name 'Alternative Albion' draws upon the use of Albion as an ancient poetic name for pre-Roman Britain. As early as the 1st century AD Pliny wrote: Albion ipsi nomen fuit cum Britanniae vocarentur omnes. This has long been thought to derive from the Latin albus ('white') as a reference to the colour of the chalk cliffs on the south coast. However recent research suggests there was a 'Celtic' (strictly 'British') word stem albio- which meant 'the land, the country'. This survives in the modern Scottish Gaelic name for Scotland, 'Alba'.
Albion became personified as a primaeval giant who roamed Britain. G.K. Chesteron recognised this 'elemental and emblematic giant' in the poetry of Chaucer, 'with our native hills for his bones and our native forests for his beard.… a single figure outlined against the sea and a great face staring at the sky.' Albion also features in the poetry of William Blake, suggesting an English utopia. In Jerusalem he wrote 'All things begin and end in Albion's ancient, Druid rocky shore'.
In 1974 a group of London-based activists created the idea of a network of independent collectives and communities under the name Albion Free State, loosely based on the Dutch 'Orange Free State' movement founded in 1970. George McKay in Senseless Acts of Beauty (Verso 1996) considers that Albion is the alternative Britain to that of industrialism, privilege and over-mighty government; ideas that seem to be increasingly relevant in the early 21st century than they were in the 1970s.
For more Albion-related associations see the Wikipedia entry for 'Albion'.
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