Here are five (plus one) new books about Anglo-Saxon England.
By Henrietta Leyser
Excerpt: Anglo-Saxon history, consigned once to the ‘Dark Ages’ that were thought to have followed on from the collapse of the Roman Empire in the fifth century, has from some time now been enjoying a renaissance. The unearthing of the great ship burial at Sutton Hoo in 1939 scotched forever any idea that the Germanic peoples who had migrated to England after the departure of the Roman legions in 410 were no more than poverty-stricken barbarians, reduced to subsistence farming. The development now of new techniques – DNA samples, for example, and the use of isotopes – is providing innovative ways of deciphering the incomers’ origins and population patterns. Moreover, quite unexpected and random discoveries are, with seemingly regularity, being unearthed through the use of metal detectors, the Staffordshire Hoard of 2009 being the most spectacular to date. Anglo-Saxon history is then a fast moving field, exciting in its interdisciplinarity.
By Daniel Anlezark
ARC Humanities Press
Excerpt: This short book is not designed as a revisionist study attempting to undo Alfred; nor is it intended as a defence of Alfred, either as an historical person or a mythic figure, conjured out of history in the course of creating English-national identity. However, I do assumer throughout that Alfred, king of Wessex, is important to our understanding of the past and present. Many people across the centuries have agreed that Alfred was indeed “the Great,” but this was not a style he arrogated to himself, nor anyone for some centuries after his death. I would like to find the Alfred before he was “great,” the Alfred who lived and died across the second half of the ninth century, in a material and cultural world very remote from ours, but one facing many of the same issues: foreign attack, international instability, the displacement of peoples, the need for social and legal reform, economic turmoil, tensions arising from religious difference.
By Thomas Williams
Excerpt: Between the conventional beginning of the Viking Age in the late eighth century and its close in the eleventh, Scandinavian people and culture were involved with Britain to a degree that left a permanent impression on these islands. They came to trade and plunder and, ultimately, to settle, to colonize and to rule. It is a story of often epic proportions, thronged with characters whose names and deeds still fire the blood and stir the imagination – Svein Forkbeard and Edmund Ironside, Ivar the Boneless and Alfred the Grea, Erik Bloodaxe and Edgar the Pacified – a story of war and upheaval. It is also, however, the story of how the people of the British Isles came to reorient themselves in a new and interconnected world, where new technologies for travel and communication brought ideas and customs into sometimes explosive contact, but which also fostered the development of towns and trade, forged new identities and gave birth to England and Scotland as united nations for the first time.
By Tom Birkett
Publisher’s Overview: Reading the Runes in Old English and Old Norse Poetry is the first book-length study to compare responses to runic heritage in the literature of Anglo-Saxon England and medieval Iceland. The Anglo-Saxon runic script had already become the preserve of antiquarians at the time the majority of Old English poetry was written down, and the Icelanders recording the mythology associated with the script were at some remove from the centres of runic practice in medieval Scandinavia. Both literary cultures thus inherited knowledge of the runic system and the traditions associated with it, but viewed this literate past from the vantage point of a developed manuscript culture.
Edited by Maren Clegg Hyer and Della Hooke
Liverpool University Press
Articles in the volume include: From Whale’s Road to Water under the Earth: Water in Anglo-Saxon Poetry, by Jill Frederick; Water in the Landscape: Charters, Laws and Place-Names, by Della Hooke; Fens and Frontiers, by Kelley M. Wickham-Crowley; Marshlands and Other Wetlands, by Stephen Rippon; Rivers, Wells and Springs in Anglo-Saxon England: Water in Sacred and Mystical Contexts, by Della Hooke; Food from the Water: Fishing, by Rebecca Reynolds; Inland Waterways and Coastal Transport: Landing Places, Canals and Bridges, by Mark Gardiner; Watermills and Waterwheels, by Martin Watts; and Water, wics and burhs, by Hal Dalwood
We have an extra book to list – this one is edited by the same writer of this post, so he is being a little cheeky. But you might still like it.
Edited by Peter Konieczny
A special issue of Medieval Warfare magazine, this collection of articles examines the people, armies and events of the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. It includes articles by John Gillingham, Ad van Kempen, Richard Abels, Megan Arnott, Danielle Turner, Ilana Krug, Kelly DeVries, Michael Livingston, George Theotokis, Danièle Cybulskie, Nick Arnold, Luke Foddy and Peter Konieczny.