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Thread: Recommended books on the Anglo-Saxons/Dark Age Britain

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    I am the Walrus Kaiser Franz's Avatar
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    Recommended books on the Anglo-Saxons/Dark Age Britain

    I've become rather interested all of a sudden by the Anglo-Saxons. Now I read Beowulf last year and intensely enjoyed it, and I picked up the Oxford World Classics Anglo-Saxon World anthology - i wanted to read some of the poetry, literature etc. But does anyone have any recommendations for Saxon literature that is easy to find, or modern history books to ease me into the subject without making be trawl through 700 pages of intense detail lol???

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    For what life was like, Sally Crawford, Anglo-Saxon England. Very good on life in AS times. She's also written a larger book, Daily Life in A-S England, which I haven't seen but has good revies.

    If you like biographies, Michael Wood, In Search of the Dark Ages. Based on a TV series, several short biographies of key figures like Alfred and Athelstan.

    For history and politics, the Penguin history series book The Anglo-Saxons by J Campbell is a good single volume one. Avoid Stenton, it's horribly out of date.

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    The Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum by Baeda. Being 1300 years old, it's even more out of date than Stenton, but closer to the original time period.

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    A Man's a Man for A' That Nasrallah's Avatar
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    The best thing about the Anglo-Saxon period is that there are only a few written sources, so you can read them all and get a sense of the period yourself.
    I do think that the poorest man in England is not at all bound in a strict sense to that Government that he hath not had a voice to put himself under; and I am confident that when I have heard the reasons against it, something will be said to answer those reasons, in so much that I should doubt whether he was an Englishman or no that should doubt of these things.
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    I am the Walrus Kaiser Franz's Avatar
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    Yeah, I knew there were relatively fewer sources than opn other periods of British/English history. However I was surprised abput the lack of general history books. You'll find plenty about the Normans, Plantagenet's, Tudors, Romans etc, but I did notice a lack in general histories about the Anglo-Saxons. Mind you, I'll have to take a gander at the Penguin one by Campbell.

    In terms of literature, I guess for the most part the Oxford anthology is all I really need!

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    The Church in Anglo-Saxon Society (Blair) is required reading for the modern student of Anglo-Saxon history. It focuses on the ecclesiastical side of things, obviously, but the Christianisation of the Anglo-Saxons was probably the most interesting and important aspect of this topic.

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    A bear there was, a bear! Kapt Torbjorn's Avatar
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    If you want a novel series set during the time you can check out Bernard Cornwell's Saxon Series:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Saxon_Stories
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    I remember watching a few British "popular history" clips, and they all show the Anglo-Saxons in a somewhat bad or condescending light. At least when compared to earlier, or later, periods like the Romans or the Normans.

    Do the Saxons still have a bad reputation for savagery, paganism, ignorance and getting beaten by Frenchmen?

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    Well, from what I have read, there has been a great degree of re-appraising the Anglo-Saxons. In my Oxford Anglo-Saxon Anthology, Kevin Crossley-Holland (the translator, commentator and editor of the book) says that they were the most sophisticated pre-Conquest people in Europe (perhaps except the Byzantines!). I mean, from the extracts of poems and epics I have read, like Deor, Waldere, Beowulf and other bits, they don't come across as savages, but as a rather interesting bunch of people.

    I think their reputation is down to a lack of evidence for them and Norman propaganda/destruction of said evidence!

    Also, the metal-work they produced - astounding. Any people who had the means and ability to produce poems like Deor, metalwork like the Staffordshire Hoard and a state like that of Alfred the Great's is certainly a pretty cool civilization and culture. It's a real shame there is not much more on them in popular history books, or even general brief histories. Mind you, they have more works on them than the poor pre-migration/invasion Romano-Britons.

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