Review also includes:
The Anglo-Saxons in Britain, 978-0750252119
These two titles in Wayland’s ‘British Heritage’ series are new editions of books which appeared first in 1997. The only changes made are in the short bibliographies, where out of print titles have been replaced with newer publications. Robert Hull’s accounts of these invaders are broadly cultural, emphasising political and social organisation, language, religion, and the arts and how these have contributed to later British culture. Both are clear, readable, enthusiastic texts in short continuous chapters where the research is well organised and carefully argued. Each title is illustrated with photographs of surviving artefacts and of locations where evidence remains in the landscape, like Iron Age hill forts and Anglo-Saxon churches. However, do not expect to learn a great deal about the life of everyday Saxon and Celt. All of the artefacts shown are ‘high status’, as they say on Time Team: gold and silver and precious objects rather than cooking pots. Nor do you have any appreciation of the difficulty that archaeologists have in tracing the lives of people who built mainly in wood and so usually left little more than post holes behind them. But then you can find that elsewhere. It’s also a little disappointing that the texts have not been updated. Even our view of history can change in ten years. In particular, DNA research has begun to cast some light on where the ‘English’ Britons went when the Anglo-Saxons invaded. It seems they didn’t all flee to Wales, Ireland or Brittany, but many remained to make a significant contribution to the ancestry of the modern English.