"Sixteen hundred years ago Britain left the Roman Empire and swiftly fell into ruin. Grand cities and luxurious villas were deserted and left to crumble, and civil society collapsed into chaos. Into this violent and unstable world came foreign invaders from across the sea, and established themselves as its new masters. The Anglo-Saxons traces the turbulent history of these people across the next six centuries. It explains how their earliest rulers fought relentlessly against each other for glory and supremacy, and then were almost destroyed by the onslaught of the vikings. It explores how they abandoned their old gods for Christianity, established hundreds of churches and created dazzlingly intricate works of art. It charts the revival of towns and trade, and the origins of a familiar landscape of shires, boroughs and bishoprics. It is a tale of famous figures like King Offa, Alfred the Great and Edward the Confessor, but also features a host of lesser known characters - ambitious queens, revolutionary saints, intolerant monks and grasping nobles. Through their remarkable careers we see how a new society, a new culture and a single unified nation came into being."--Amazon.… (more)
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.
This book is an extremely readable gallop through over six hundred years of history, focusing upon a number of prominent individuals
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.
Therefore, I skipped the Roman section. Just think how much more
The everyday people and their ways of life is as much a part of Anglo-Saxon history as that of the kings. A blend of the two would've been better.
Much of the narrative is dull and dry, which made me skip several paragraphs.
It's well-researched, though, so if you want dry facts about the kings and churchmen, then give this a read.
The Anglo-Saxon period is, to me, a fascinating period, so on the most part I was disappointed in this book, but certain sections did draw me in.