The adjective Celtic has been used to sell so many things—from books and music to jewelry to alternative spiritualities—that a canny reader might be forgiven for passing over a book called The Last of the Celts as one more piece of fluff. That would be a mistake, for in this angry, elegiac and meticulously researched book, Londoner Marcus Tanner, former assistant foreign editor of the Independent and author of books on Croatia and Ireland, casts a starkly revealing light on the cresting wave of popular Celtophilia.
This is certainly not the first such wave. Tanner prefaces the personal travelogue that is the backbone of his account with a brief history of the 1,500-year-old pattern in which invading cultures (Saxon, Norman, Anglican, Victorian, postmodern) rediscover Celtic people and remake the Celtic story for their own ends. But this wave may well be the last. As Tanner puts it: