Jackson records its achievements with justifiable pride. Yet his book, although suffused with a warm-hearted sense of local patriotism, never succumbs to chauvinism. If his love for the region is manifest on every page, then so too is a clear-eyed sense of its failings. Jackson, descended from a long line of coal miners, never leaves us in any doubt as to what the rise and decline of the northeastern economy could mean for those whose brawn was required to power it. A book of deep learning, displaying a knowledge of every detail of Northumbrian history and topography that is never less than staggering, it is also manifestly personal, and all the more readable for it.
Dan Jackson, who was born on the banks of the Tyne, is devoted to his place and people, but not blind to their faults. He admits that Northumbrians are prone to sentimentality, that there’s suspicion of individualism, and that the community spirit can sometimes turn suffocating and racist.
He acknowledges, too, that the contribution of women has often been overlooked and that even today’s high-tech industries are male-dominated. He pays tribute to Northumbrian women as various as Mary Astell (1666-1731), “possibly Britain’s earliest feminist thinker”, Ada Lovelace, “now widely regarded as the world’s first computer programmer”, and Susan Auld, who designed the landing craft used on D-Day