Book Review – The Anglo-Saxon Age by John Blair

This book is a brief introduction to the political, social, religious, and cultural history of an age when so many basic aspects of modern England were formed ranging from government institutions to the landscape and language.

Little is known of England before the 540s as the only substantial work from the time is ‘The Ruin of Britain’ written by Gildas a rant against the evils of the day. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles – a summary of events in the southern kingdoms of England – only become reliable after 570.

The written tradition was started by the Venerable Bede of Jarrow monastery, who completed his masterpiece Ecclesiastical History of the English People in 731.

The book starts with post-Roman Britain and the shadowy figure of ‘King Arthur’ and continues with Raedwald (probably buried at Sutton Hoo), Penda of Mercia, the Synod of Whitby, Offa of Mercia, The Danish Invasion, Alfred, Athelstan, Cnut and finally the lead up to the Battle of Hastings and the Norman Conquest, though it has to be said the Normans used a lot of Anglo-Saxon ideas and institutions (including the outstanding land records) during their reign.

There is an extensive Further Reading list, should the reader need to find out more about a particular topic.