Starting AD 400 (around the time of their invasion of England) and running through to the 1100s (the 'Aftermath'), historian Geoffrey Hindley shows the Anglo-Saxons as formative in the history not only of England but also of Europe. The society inspired by the warrior world of the Old English poem Beowulf saw England become the world's first nation state and Europe's first country to conduct affairs in its own language, and Bede and Boniface of Wessex establish the dating convention we still use today. Including all the latest research, this is a fascinating assessment of a vital historical period.
About the author: Geoffrey Hindley is an acclaimed Medievalist. His many books include The Shaping of Europe, Saladin: a Biography, The Book of Magna Carta, and A Brief History of the Crusades.
©2013 Geoffrey Hindley (P)2013 Audible Ltd
"This is an excellent assessment of a vital historical epoch from one of our most respected medievalists" (Good Book Guide, July 1, 2006)
"fabric artist and quilter"
I know only a little about the history of Britain before the Norman conquest and now I understand why - very little is actually known. There are a few chronicles that have historical information and this is what this book tends to regurgitate.
Unfortunately this book as a result ends up being a listing of kings and their reigns with brief suggested activities they undertook while on the throne. Nothing is known for certain until after 900ish and then all the kings seemed be named Ethel this or Ethel that so it got very confusing.
I know about as much about Anglo Saxon Britain as I did before I listened to this book so I can only really recommend this book to someone who knows nothing about Anglo Saxon Britain and has a interest in learning something about it!
The book's organization is hard to follow. I wish the author would have chosen an easier narrative to follow - it is organized both topically and chronologically, which makes it hard to follow for someone not already familiar with the subject (the target audience for this book). He covers each area geographically in a rough chronology, which makes it hard to follow when he refers to people and events in other regions that we don't learn about until later. He also spends far too much time in my opinion focusing on religious matters, including long excursions on the continent following famous Anglo-Saxon émigrés that became saints. How this helps someone understand Anglo Saxon England is beyond me - if I wanted to really understand the history of the West Indies in the colonial period, I would not look for it in a biography of Alexander Hamilton. A religious focus is somewhat understandable given that the bulk of primary source material from the period comes from religious chroniclers, but I still would have preferred more descriptions of ordinary lives and culture and local government. Counties, shires, courts are all mentioned but not very well described. A brief history should give a reader an overall sense for the key events and the lives of the people who lived it. This book did not accomplish that goal
"A bit "listy""
The topic is fascinating; Saxons dominated large part of England for well over 500 years; they had a strongly creative culture, sophisticated political systems and let's be honest, they were cool. Thousands of guys who look like Robert Plant weilding battle axes; how can that be anything other than a good listen. The problem in this instance is that we get a very comprehensive picture of the Saxons in England from their arrival here to just after 1066 but it began to feel like a survey and I found myself periodically getting a bit bored. It's not a bad book, the author really knows his stuff and it's well produced but it just didn't come to life for me
"What it means to be English"
This is a period of history about which I know little. This book certainly changed that! Very well written based on meticulous research.
It shows that Britain has always been subject to people of different cultures coming to settle in these islands. We have for centuries been a multi-cultural society. Despite the sweeping changes the Norman invasion brought to Saxon England - still traditional 'Saxon' practices were not completely wiped out. For example, farm tenancies in Kent were based on Saxon law until the 1920s! This book has a lot of lessons for the UK today.
Ms David has a very nice voice to listen to. This cannot have been an easy book to read out loud and she did an excellent job - although she mispronounces some Dutch words!
I liked this book so much I'm going to buy the hard copy.
"Hard work. But...not bad."
Ok. From the start, you have to persevere with this one. At first it seems impenetrable - at least the first half of the book is a bombardment of facts, dates, names and hypotheses, and the head swims just taking it all on board. Add to that that within the general chronology of the book there's a fair amount of date-jumping, you could almost give up. After a while, however, I realised that it's not the author's inability to connect with his audience as I had first perceived it. Alright, it would make for easier digestion if he had more of a Tom Holland talent for telling the story of history instead of throwing the facts at you, but I have to say - and sorry Eleanor David - her narration of the book is, although clear....er....well, uncharismatic. Almost too proper. It's the only audio book I've ever spent so much time jumping back a minute or two to re-listen to parts because I zoned out. But, that aside, when the Vikings appear on the scene, Hindley starts to get more into the flow of telling the story of history and it all gets a lot better. Shame it took so long.
All in all, this is an often confusing but useful book for those interested in the subject. If you're new to the Anglo Saxons, I'd recommend starting with Michael Drout's excellent and fun lecture and then use this one to fill in any gaps.
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