Neal Ascherson summarises from Barry Cunliffe's Europe Between the Oceans: 9000 BC to AD 1000, focussing particularly on the role the 'creative imbalances' of 'the diversity of outlooks fostered by variety of landscape' has played in the development of the peninsular. I liked this bit in particular: Cunliffe 'speculates that the earliest shore dwellers had a distinct view of the world, richer than that of forest dwellers. Maritime communities were aware, thanks to tides and moon-phases, of natural rhythms other than the mere progression of seasons, and were intensely concerned with the identity and movement of stars as aids to navigation.'
There's something very appealing about this, although it also (of course) panders to a pretty deep rooted prejudice most people share: we all like to think of ourselves as shore-dwellers; we all feel that tingle in our souls as we walk along the beach. But the modern equivalent of forests are called 'cities', and that's where we -- most of us -- mostly feel at home.