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4.7 out of 5 stars
Ecclesiastical History of the English People
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
I was lucky enough to study a module on Anglo-Saxon history at University and this was on the reading list. Bede is a direct and approachable writer who has an understated wisdom both in his treatment of the individual iconic figures of his age and for the wider swing of history. He seems himself enthused by his chosen subject and is quietly spell-binding. Of course, you do have to be a little savvy to peer between the lines- was for instance the advent of Christianity accepted with such wild enthusiasm as he claims, and did the novice receive his hymn from the almighty as he said? But Bede includes so much detail- his book is, to use his own expression: 'full of days'that we need not feel he is ever glibly leading us astray. He is telling us stories in order to make sense of his world. And in doing so gives us such a glimpse into how things were, in all their vigour and anarchy and stoicism. This is one book that is never going on the charity shop pile.
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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on 27 June 2000
I have just finished a University module based on this book, and was lucky to study it in some depth. It is a great book to study but also a great book just to read. It may be over a thousand years old, but Bede's style is infinitely accessible and there is much to enjoy in the stories that he weaves. Particularly memorable are the Anglo-Saxon kings and their fierceness, particularly Penda whom Bede obviously disliked a great deal, and the brilliant story of the conversion of King Edwin from paganism to Christianity. Do not be put off by the fact that it is an "ecclesiastical" history: it is not at all a dry, religious book. It is a highly interesting chronicle of a time which otherwise may have been lost to us.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 26 March 2010
This book is of interest to those , like myself, who wish to learn about how the foundations of our great nation were established before the Norman Conquest and possibly to Anglicans who wish to learn about the origins of their Church. Bede's piety and devotion to his religion shine through. However, what makes the book uputdownable by myself is the occasional anecdote illuminating the struggles and adversity faced by the earliest English folk such as the suicide pacts made in Sussex in the face of dearth.This is a fascinating read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 12 January 2015
Read this, be inspired that you are but a small part of the historical walk of Christian life throughout the centuries.

Has one of my favorite quotes in all Christendom.

read the book it is well worth it

Your Majesty, when we compare the present life of man on earth with that time of which we have no knowledge, it seems to me like the swift flight of a single sparrow through the banqueting-hall where you are sitting at dinner on a winter’s day with your thegns and counsellors. In the midst there is a comforting fire to warm the hall; outside the storms of winter rain or snow are raging. This sparrow flies swiftly in through one door of the hall, and out through another. While he is inside, he is safe from the winter storms; but after a moment of comfort, he vanishes from sight into the wintry world from which he came. Even so, man appears on earth for a little while; but of what went before this life or of what follows, we know nothing. Therefore, if this new teaching has brought any more certain knowledge, it seems only right that we should follow it.”
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 23 April 2013
This translation of Bede into modern English is clear, accessible and easy to read and well presented - I'd recommend it!
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on 26 July 2015
''Nevertheless, its essential quality carries it into the small class of books which transcend all but the most fundamental conditions of time and place. Bede was a monk to whom the miraculous seemed a manifestation of the divine government of the world. But his critical faculty was always alert; his narrative never degenerates into a tissue of ill-attested wonders, and in regard to all the normal substance of history his work can be judged as strictly as any historical writing of any time. His preface, in which he acknowledges the help received from learned friends, reads like an introduction to a modern work of scholarship. But the quality which makes his work great is not his scholarship, nor the faculty of narrative which he shared with many contemporaries, but his astonishing power of co-ordinating the fragments of information which came to him through tradition, the relation of friends, or documentary evidence.
In an age when little was attempted beyond the registration of fact, he had reached the conception of history. It is in virtue of this conception that the 'Historia Ecclesiastica' still lives after twelve hundred years.''
Sir Frank Stenton, author of 'Anglo-Saxon England'
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 2 December 1999
This is a delightful piece of history not only because of the information it portrays, but also because of the style in which it is written. I also had the opportunity to read the first edition of the work and would love to hear where I could get hold of it. This edition, however, is quite delightful enough!
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 16 August 2007
I found this book surprisingly easy to read, which says much for the translation and could be read by anybody from teens and older.
The introduction is interesting providing a mini biography of Bede.
The book itself is good but I think it is of more value to history or theology scholars rather than an average Joe like me.
There are interesting overviews of 1st century history but most of the book concentrates on the establishment of the Catholic church in England, the lives of various clergy, stories of miracles and theological debates.
If this is not your bag then you are not likely to enjoy it.
There is also a tendency for it to be a little repetitive. Many of the stories seem the same with different names inserted.
However,many of the chapters are very short (half-a-page to a page) so is a good book to pick up and put down rather than read in long sessions.
The book overall is good, but I would say not for everyone.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 8 June 2008
Read any secondary account of early Anglo-Saxon England and the authors are unanimous in their praise of the Venerable Bede. However, it wasn't until I read the book for myself that I realised how true it was when historians claim that, for information, the only reliable source from this era is Bede. I noticed how all the secondary accounts I have read on this period sprung from this book which makes it one of the most influential historical texts ever written. From the departure of the Romans in 409AD until the time Bede finished his work in 731, with the possible exception of Gildas; he is the only game in town for the 21st century Historian.

The book is very readable which is surprising as usually primary histories are harder to read than secondary histories as they are not aimed at the modern history reader, but his short and easily digestible chapters are a credit to his genius. The only tiny disappointment for me was the speed in which he got to the 600's, the vast majority of this text deals with the era from 601-731AD which almost makes it a history of his lifetime. Bede lived from 673-735 so a lot of the information he got will have been from experience or the living memory of those around him. However it would be wrong to blame Bede for this, if the information prior to the 600's was scant then there wouldn't be much he could do about it. It also cannot be forgot that this is an ecclesiastical history and so Bede's interest in pre-Christian Britain would be minor.

Bede's monopoly on early Anglo-Saxon history means we have to trust him unreservedly to a certain extent but this monk is (obviously) biased towards the Catholic religion. This book in large chunks reads like a theological as opposed to historical text with lots of references made to healing miracles performed by holy men of the age. This brings up the question if one does not believe these miracles actually took place can we trust Bede in the historical parts of his texts? Archaeology seems to have proved Bede largely correct in a purely historical sense - which gives us a basis for hope. As an Atheist I certainly do not believe that the miracles took place in the religious sense in which they were reported, however, I am more inclined to believe that Bede never had any intention of misleading the reader. His belief in the miracles he spoke of came about by his unquestioning faith in Catholicism rather than a desire to be manipulative. Therefore, the historical side of his account can be, for the most part, trusted as accurate in my opinion. His mix of theology and history makes for a more interesting read anyway.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 2 February 2007
Bede's history of England from the invasion of Julius Caesar up until his own day is one of the most fascinating books I have ever read. The England of Bede's day was a thrilling place, full of kings and saints and miracles. Scenes from history come vividly to life, Caesar's invasion, the martrydom of Saint Alban, Saint Augustine and the Anglo-Saxon slave children with their 'angelic' faces. The women who appear in the book are all remarkable, Christian Queens converting their husbands to Christianity, female saints performing miracles, powerful Abbesses ruling over communities of both men and women. The England of our own day seems dull and colourless by comparison. What an astonishing time to be alive in.
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