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"The Anglo-Saxons: A History of the Beginnings of England"
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Author:  p.falk [ Tue Mar 15, 2022 3:36 pm ]
Post subject:  "The Anglo-Saxons: A History of the Beginnings of England"

By Marc Morris...

First off, thanks to Custos for suggesting this book to me on a thread in the Pub.

I love it. Reading it is putting so many puzzle pieces together.... linking vague associations I only had from reading other books and clarifying many things that were muddled and confused in my head.

I heard the Kierkegaard quote before "he clips the coin a trifle" and thought it meant it more metaphorically. This book goes into some of the background of "coin clipping" (actually clipping it down and pocketing some of the silver) and why it began to happen in Roman-Britain in the start of the 5th century - after the Roman empire contracted and left the economic landscape of Britain to fall freely.

One part that's really interesting is the moving of the Western Roman court was moved from Trier to Milan. How Britain's economy was largely kept afloat by the grain they exported to Trier. With it moving to Milan that made it impractical.
The importance of Roman-British military figures... Magnus Maximus invades Gaul, kills Gratian and moves the court back to Trier. Years later Theodosious kills Magnus Maximus and moves it back to Milan. From Milan, due to fighting on the north side of the alps... it's moved even further away to Ravenna.

How something like that played a large role in sealing the fate of Roman-Britain.

Another good part is how ineffectual the remaining Briton's were in defending themselves. The Roman Empire did not want the citizenry armed... so when the Empire retracted you had a large group of people (Briton's) unarmed and unskilled in battle so that when the Scots, Picts, or Saxons came they were in a 'bad way'.

Only breaking into the book right now... but so far: strongly recommended.

Author:  p.falk [ Wed Mar 16, 2022 4:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: "The Anglo-Saxons: A History of the Beginnings of Englan

I find this part very interesting. Morris ponders why kings and kingdoms started to first spring up in England amongst the Anglo-Saxons at the end of the 6th Century.
He states that:

Trouble began in 536, when a number of writers noted that something was very wrong with the weather. "During the whole year," said the Byzantine historian Procopius, "the sun gave forth its light without brightness... it seemed exceedingly like the sun in eclipse, for the beams it shed were not clear." Another Mediterranean writer spoke of a year-long eclipse, and remarked that this led to "a winter without storms, a spring without mildness, and a summer without heat". Even the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, generally unreliable as it is for the sixth century, noted two eclipses around this time.
What these writers were all describing was a 'dust-veil' event caused by volcanic eruptions.

Author:  p.falk [ Fri Mar 18, 2022 3:35 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: "The Anglo-Saxons: A History of the Beginnings of Englan

One Anglo-Saxon king killing another... sometimes getting beaten in battle from a Briton king in the western portion of the island (Cadwallon). What a wild stretch of years. Makes the Roman empire seem perpetually calm.

Poor Venerable Bede - he notes the successful conversion of one king only for him to die and his followers and family going back to paganism. Such narrow threads the faith seemed to dangle from at times.

Author:  p.falk [ Mon Apr 04, 2022 1:19 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: "The Anglo-Saxons: A History of the Beginnings of Englan

The Vikings... 'visitations' to England makes up 2 chapters.
I had no idea the scale of these Viking attacks. A series of attacks that extend beyond a century.

The author, Marc Morris, does a pretty good job not dumping on Christians. He calls out some of the historians, biographers of that period (Stephen of Ripon for example) as being very unreliable. But, he gives credit and respect to Venerable Bede.

He seems to be in awe of St. Wilfrid but is quick to point out some horrendous things he cosigned: Caedwalla's forceful conversion of places west of Wessex. Some subtle moral condemnations directed at Christian bishops and rulers.

Morris' describing the extent of the Viking's harassments is eye opening. It's something that recent television shows/movies put the Vikings in a such a glowing light. Morris has no moral condemnation to direct at them.... but his descriptions leave one in shock at the constant, drawn out, repeated burnings, enslaving, destroying, killing. Entire kingdoms falling (Northumbria).

Author:  p.falk [ Fri Apr 15, 2022 10:00 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: "The Anglo-Saxons: A History of the Beginnings of Englan

What a book...
So much history, so nuanced and messy - still enjoyable.

It gives me pause to think about how constant, regular, and lengthy the Viking assaults were.
It's confusing to track where they were still an insular group and where they were intermingled with the Saxon... just like how the Britons in the east were intermingled with the Saxons.

The constant treachery too. The one who could contest the seat of the next likely king simply ending up dead at an early age.

Morris repeated a line a couple of times that revealed his hand too much. When the topic of slavery came, on two instances he states the same thing: Christians have been fine with slavery all the way back to biblical times. As if in practical terms it would have just ended entirely.... as if Christians are no different than anyone else who tries to rationalize a sinful behavior. At least you can thank Christianity for showing that it is a sinful behavior. Morris seems to forget the tree that the branch he's sitting on is connected to when he throws out moral indictments about the shortcoming of Christians: secular and religious.

I rant...
It's a fascinating book.

His closing pages after the Battle of Hastings are poignant and touching.
Regarding the legacy of the Anglo-Saxons in the wake of Norman Conquest:

And yet, although their buildings are mostly gone, and their myths have been dispelled, a great deal of the Anglo-Saxon inheritance remains. The head of the English Church is still based at Canterbury because it was the principal city of King Aethelberht when he welcomed St. Augustine over 1,400 years ago. Westminster is the political heart of the kingdom because Edward the Confessor added a royal palace when he rebuilt its ancient abby.... The fact that so much of this is unchanged is remarkable. Roman Britannia, despite the grandeur of its ruins, lasted barely 400 years, and was over by the mid-fifth century. England is still a work in progress.

Author:  GKC [ Sat Apr 16, 2022 8:47 am ]
Post subject:  Re: "The Anglo-Saxons: A History of the Beginnings of Englan

The last quoted sentence is two-edged.

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