This Edition Of Michael Wood S Groundbreaking First Book Explores The Fascinating And Mysterious Centuries Between The Romans And The Norman Conquest Of In Search Of The Dark Ages Vividly Conjures Up Some Of The Most Famous Names In British History, Such As Queen Boadicea, Leader Of A Terrible War Of Resistance Against The Romans, And King Arthur, The Once And Future King , For Whose Riddle Wood Proposes A New And Surprising Solution Here Too, Warts And All, Are The Saxon, Viking And Norman Kings Who Laid The Political Foundations Of England Offa Of Mercia, Alfred The Great, Athelstan, And William The Conqueror, Whose Victory At Hastings In Marked The End Of Anglo Saxon EnglandReflecting Recent Historical, Textual And Archaeological Research, This Revised Edition Of Michael Wood S Classic Book Overturns Preconceptions Of The Dark Ages As A Shadowy And Brutal Era, Showing Them To Be A Richly Exciting And Formative Period In The History Of Britain With In Search Of The Dark Ages, Michael Wood Wrote The Book For History On TV The Times Michael Wood Is The Maker Of Some Of The Best TV Documentaries Ever Made On History And Archaeology Times Literary Supplement The title is overly broad but don t be disappointed Content yourself that this really looks only at England, and of it, only at the following Boudica regnant, AD 60 or 61 queen of the Iceni and leader of a calamitous revolt against Roman rule the Sutton Hoo Man, probably Raedwald c 599 c 624 king of East Anglia and champion of Christianity Arthur late 5th early 6th centuries leader of the Britons against the Saxons Offa 757 796 king of Mercia and overlord of southern England, including Kent and Sussex and builder of the Dyke wall on the entire border with Wales, some of which still exits Alfred 871 899 the only British monarch called the Great Aethelstan 924 939 the first king of England because he unified the English peoples Eric Bloodaxe 947 948 and 952 954 king of nearly ungovernable Northumbria Ethelred the Unready 978 1013 and 1014 1016 paradoxically viewed as incompetent and long reigning and, William the Conqueror 1066 1085 who redistributed over 90% of Anglo Saxon land holdings to Normans.The book offers less of what peoples lives were like than I was looking for Its description of daily life beyond political intrigue is virtually confined to the circumstances prevailing in York, a rich commercial and trading center especially in the time of Aethelstan It drives home the point that war, insurrection, and banditry were constant and endemic It makes plain that slavery was present everywhere and trade in slaves was big business It also contains the best and most concise description of why William of Normandy invaded and of the events leading up to and culminating in the watershed battle of Hastings that I ve ever seen Well done, easy to handle, and worth a read. Covering such figures as Boudicca, Offa, Alfred the Great and King Arthur, Wood looks at Britain in the time period from the fall of the Roman Empire to the invasion of the Normans This was so interesting and I feel I learned a lot. I like Michael Wood s work I ll go ahead and damn him with the praise that his summation of history and archaeology is accessible I have no doubt that he s passionate, thorough, articulate and competent damning praise Still, I didn t enjoy this book I couldn t wait to be done with it and if you quizzed me on its contents, I don t think I d do very well This likely has much to do with my familiarity with the subject matter If the names Offa, Athelstan and Ethelred are already quite familiar to you, you ll make out rather well If not, they may seem like little than an anonymous procession of Anglo Saxon kings who set about unifying England when not getting harassed by Danish vikings Things come alive when Wood describes the battle of Hastings It s gripping stuff, but was, for me, too little too late My ignorance of pre Norman English history is largely to blame for my dissatisfaction Still, after 250 pages I remain fairly benighted So, not a great read But Mr Wood is not entirely at fault. Enjoyable for any with a firm interest in the subject The chapters on Alfred the Great and Athelstan warrant a 4 star other chapters tend to read as academic essays than bringing history to life However such a judgement could reflect on the reader s state of mind at the time of reading or even the quality of the original resources Not having seen the TV series I can t say if the writer s intent was to inform than to entertain.For me it failed to excite me in the way that Bede s Ecclesiastical History did, except for the two chapters mentioned above Michael Wood s In Search of the Dark Ages is a survey of British history from Boudica to William the Conqueror, looking at the formation of a British or English it s not always terribly clear which he s interested in identity Obviously, he has to do a quick whip past subjects that whole books have been written about some of which I ve read , so it isn t written in amazing detail, but it s a decent overview.It was, however, nigh on ruined for me by the repeated use of the word barbarians and the concept of the Third World He can t seem to decide whether he s using the word barbarians ironically or not one minute he s saying that they were unorganised, lawless, without any culture, the next he s using the word in inverted commas with a hint of criticism of that idea One minute they re tactical and well organised, the next a howling mob who naturally get beaten by the Romans And he uses that word again of various different cultures, so you have to wonder what exactly he thinks it means Anyone who doesn t fit right into his narrative of a British English identity Originally published on my blog here in August 2001.The TV series which this book accompanied was my first introduction to Michael Wood s style of history then, it was not as personal as it has become In Search of Alexander and Conquistadors being as much about his own journeying as about the history Perhaps Wood s background as a Dark Ages scholar has something to do with this, making the book academic in tone.In form, the book is a series of examinations of pivotal characters from Britain between the Roman and Norman conquests Boadicea, King Arthur, the Sutton Hoo body, Offa, Alfred, Athelstan, Eric Bloodaxe, Ethelred the Unready, and William the Conqueror The emphasis is clearly political even though the conversion of the English and the disputes between the Roman and Celtic churches are important to the development of medieval Britain, very little is said about them There is nothing outside England, either, though this may because its history is better documented than other areas of the British Isles.Of course, the book is not intended to be a narrative history of the period It is a set of snapshots of prominent secular figures, and if there is any unifying theme, it must be the nature and development of Dark Ages kingship in England The format certainly has the advantage that even the most uninformed about history are likely to have heard of most of the figures covered In this way, the book does introduce a reader to the scene of England in the thousand years described here at the same time, there is plenty of material to interest the reader who starts knowing. return return This appears to be a book of the TV series dating from 1981, revised in 1987 my copy is a 1994 reprint I imagine the TV series must have been reasonably interesting sadly, for much of the book I found myself wishing for relevant illustrations and better maps return return Wood takes a straightforward tack of structuring his narrative around nine individuals from Boadicea to William the Conqueror not that I would really have counted either of them as belonging to the Dark Ages , but there you go It doen t always work One of the nine is the Sutton Hoo Man, and it s difficult to construct a good narrative around someone when the only thing you know for sure about him is that he is dead And the chapter on Athelstan promised to open our eyes about him and also reveal why he has been allowed to fall into obscurity I am afraid I found my eyes glazing rather than opening, and if there was an explicit explanation of why we never hear much about him I missed it return return However, the chapters on King Arthur, Offa and Alfred were all good The other two are on Eric Bloodaxe and Ethelred the Unready I especially enjoyed the Alfred one I found myself musing on the history of the Danelaw, which extended much further both south and west than I had realised As a result of Alfred s efforts it seems to have been completely incorporated into the English polity, disappearing completely as a political entity in its own right. Michael Wood takes us through an historical journey, from the beginnings of Roman rule in Britain, right through to the start of the early Middle Ages at the time of the conquest of Britain by William of Normandy In other words, it is a study of the main pivotal events and rulers during what are known as the Dark Ages in Britain They are known as the Dark Ages because there is little written records of these times most of the chronicles of these years were written in greater study afterwards, so obviously the Latin Chroniclers would have to rely on conjecture and what little information they had, most of the written items being in Old English In recent times, a lot of our knowledge of this era, stemming from when the final Roman Legions sailed away to defend Rome in c.410 AD, right up until 1086 when the Domesday book was written, comes from archaeological discovery, the most notable this book covers being the Sutton Hoo burial mound in East Anglia This work is based around Michael Woods television documentary of the same name that was made during the early 1980 s for the BBC In fact I first found out about him from his Trojan War series during the mid 80 s, which was quite influential for me, and ever since I wanted to become an archaeologist, but life got in the way of that one for me But I digress This book covers Boadiceas revolt King Arthur and the myth surrounding him that in effect tries to use current research and still fails to actually prove that he existed quite dramatically Sutton Hoo burial mound, an amazing discovery during the 1930s showing the gradual shift from Paganism to Christianity King Offa and his famous barrier against the Welsh King Alfred and how pivotal he was, not only staving off the Viking incursions, but how ground breaking in terms of town layout evidence of it in locations today and efficient administration for the burghs King Athelstan, probably one of the best Anglo Saxon Kings for uniting most of England Eric Bloodaxe confusing periods of reign and a tragic end Ethelred the Unready long reign, but lost against the Vikings and whom is a quite tragic figure regardless and finally, William the Conqueror and the end of the Wessex family line in 1066, as well as the destruction of nearly 600 years of Anglo Saxon dominance in England.Each Chapters are short studies, based around their television counterparts and, whilst not an exhaustive study of the periods and characters concerned with in the book, offer a good introduction into them, mainly focusing on modern day i.e modern being early 1980s archaeological discoveries, and visiting the places made famous from these historical people, which gives the book some feeling of where things happened Finally, the final chapter is an updated postscript, showing other developments and discoveries from the series, the conclusion being that the Wessex Kings such as Alfred and Athelstan and their developments in early British History really actually left a legacy behind them that in effect had an impact that carries through to today. A highly readable short account of the Dark Ages Lively, interesting, well written and informative Very concerned with the themes of history and the building of Anglo Saxon England Lots of detail about the lives of the peasantry as well as the influence of the kings and the power struggles that went on in this period I really enjoyed this read.
See this thread for information Michael David Wood is an English historian broadcaster He s presented numerous tv documentary series Library of Congress lists him as Michael Wood.Wood was born in Moston, Manchester, educated at Manchester Grammar School Oriel College, Oxford His special interest was Anglo Saxon history In the 70s Wood worked for the BBC in Manchester He was 1st a reporter, then an assistant producer on current affairs programmes, before returning to his love of history with his 1981 series In Search of the Dark Ages for BBC2 This explored the lives of leaders of the period, including Boadicea, King Arthur, Offa, Alfred the Great, Athelstan, Eric Bloodaxe William the Conquerer gave rise to his 1st book, based upon the series.
- 288 pages
- In Search of the Dark Ages
- Michael Wood
- 06 October 2018 Michael Wood