The Anglo-Saxons: A History of the Beginnings of England

by Marc Morris

Hardcover, 2021



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Hutchinson (2021), 528 pages

User reviews

LibraryThing member Stbalbach
Having read Morris' Normal Conquest, probably the best general treatment, I was excited to next take a trip through the Early Middle Ages. It is possible to write a compelling book on ancient people with few available sources. But this is not it. Morris basically sticks to political events and as such it's a lot of names, kings disposed, and haphazard contingent history. There is little cultural history, which is essential to bring a period alive and transport the reader. It's difficult because it requires a multi-disciplinary approach and familiarity with the monologues and journals, then making it enjoyable for the general reader; but I didn't get the impression Morris is too deeply familiar with the scholarship. Not to say what he wrote is flawed, he gets the events right presumably.

I gained some new perspectives, on how politi formed starting in the 5th century and became larger in time, centered around the King, starting with a small band of raiders, a small village, who then absorb neighbors etc.. a chaotic process that took hundreds of years before finally a King of England first emerged in the 9th century. The importance of the 6th century famines caused by climatic events in creating a new society. The revival of interest in Rome in the 8th century, as part of a propaganda campaign to show Kingly legitimacy. The population increase in the 10th century after a prolonged period of peace from Viking raids, a key century in the emergence of what would eventually become the modern world.
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LibraryThing member fastred
Covers the period from the end of Roman Britain to the Norman Conquest of 1066AD. Draws on much recent scholarship, archeology and analysis, but also seeks to provide a coherent narrative for the era. The role of the church and religion, and state formation, are given prominence, as well as key individuals both ecclesiastical and royal.… (more)
LibraryThing member CarltonC
It’s interesting to read this book so soon after The First Kingdom by Max Adams, as that book explains in greater detail the first couple of chapters of this book.
This book is an extremely readable gallop through over six hundred years of history, focusing upon a number of prominent individuals to carry the story. Morris therefore necessarily has to take a broad brush approach, leaving me dissatisfied with my overall understanding of this period. My main criticism is that the breakdown of Roman Britain, creation of a mass of minor chiefdoms, which become smaller kingdoms that slowly coalescing to form four larger Anglo-Saxon kingdoms is described briefly, but perhaps too simplistically compared to the more nuanced treatment possible in the more detailed The First Kingdom. I would also have liked more consideration of the replacement of British Gaelic with Anglo-Saxon language, but accept that this would have slowed this book’s more political narrative of great men.
What Morris does well is the telling of good individual stories which can be linked to provide an overview of the period. However I came to feel that this created a series of snapshots of prominent wealthy men (Morris apologises at the outset that this is due to the paucity of the records of females) at different places and times. The book also felt imbalanced towards describing events during the end of the period, with the second half of the book covering about 200 years out of the more than 600 years covered by the book. But this gives time to pleasingly explain how the political structural weakness created by the Danish invasion of Cnut helped create the circumstances for the Norman invasion.
Morris has created a very readable and largely enjoyable overview of the period, providing copious notes of available references to allow further more detailed reading, but it did read like a “taster” for the history of the period.
I do now want to read Morris’s book on The Norman Conquest, as I would hope that his apparent narrative skills will work better in concentrating on a shorter period.
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9.53 inches


1786330997 / 9781786330994

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