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Hereward: The Last Englishman Paperback – 1 Jan 2005


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Paperback, 1 Jan 2005
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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: The History Press Ltd (1 Jan 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0752433180
  • ISBN-13: 978-0752433189
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 16.5 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 870,737 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Peter Rex was a retired history teacher and the author of six history books. He was Head of History at Princethorpe College for twenty years. Sadly, Peter Rex died in March 2012. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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95 of 103 people found the following review helpful By Al Kitching on 1 April 2005
Format: Paperback
What do we know of Hereward (often - and erroneously - dubbed 'the Wake')? Well, up in the east of England (especially in that gap between Ely and Peterborough) the name is plastered everywhere, and a quick look-see on Google or in the Yellow pages confirms it: Hereward Housing, Hereward Field Target & Air Rifle Club, Hereward variety Winter Wheat, Hereward FM (102.7, fact fans), Hereward Brewery, the Hereward Business Centre, etc. Like I say, everywhere.
So, what does it mean, beyond a vague sensation that it might have some distant historical significance? OK, concentrate at the back...
Hereward, very likely the exiled son of a powerful Lincolnshire thegn, and nephew to Abbot Brand of Peterborough, was sent from England prior to the Norman invasion of 1066 and fought in a series of conflicts as a soldier of fortune in Western Flanders. It is on his return to England, post-Hastings, post-Harrying of the North, that he discovers his country overrun and his estates confiscated. Attempting to gather together survivors of William's cruel policies, Hereward goes on the rampage, starting with the violent attack on the monastery at Peterborough, where he tries to frustrate the man who seeks to take over from his uncle, the vicious Turold, by removing the monastery's treasures. After this, he barricades himself on the Isle of Ely.
Ely in the Eleventh Century was, genuinely, an island, surrounded by a mass of sedge, swamp, fen, and a dizzyingly complex network of rivers and tributaries. Even today, approached from almost any angle, the hill that Ely sits on is visible for miles around. In the 1060s and 1070s, afloat a 'desolate, waterlogged hell full of stagnant pools and deadly bogs', it must have seemed the most impregnable fortress imaginable.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By M. J. Leek on 18 Jun 2008
Format: Paperback
Rex has a very hard job here, trying to make a factual account of the real Hereward half as interesting as the shadowy, enigmatic myth of Hereward 'The Wake' constructed notably by Charles Kingsley among others. One of the major problems of a strict scholarly study into the man is the lack of reliable evidence that can be verified; with which one could build up a real profile. I thought Rex had managed to pull it off. Sadly though he hasn't been wholly successful and what we have instead is a rather disappointing yet nevertheless enjoyable account of everything surrounding Hereward; the society he lived in, his family, the people he fought with and against, the myth of Hereward 'The Wake' and the environment he fought in; but little on Hereward the person. This book is worth purchasing but do not expect too much about the leading character he seems to be an aside.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Nathan on 25 Mar 2014
Format: Paperback
Rex has a hard job in identifying the fact from the fiction and does a decent job of it and has clearly done a monumental amount of research. However this book is more of an essay than anything. Pages upon pages of non memorable and quite frankly unimportant information such as the various holdings of thegns that meant quite little to the actual subject at hand.

There is no real narrative to speak of and more Rex writing down the answers to his math and deductions which means that Hereward, the man you bought the book for is forever playing second fiddle to Rex and his mountain of information about everything but Hereward.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy Bevan TOP 500 REVIEWER on 20 Nov 2011
Format: Paperback
This is a forensic and thorough history of a shadowy, even legendary, figure in English history. Hereward (whom Rex argues should not be called `the Wake', as this familial name is almost certainly falsely attributed to him) took arms against a sea of Norman troubles and injustices shortly after the Conquest in 1066, and fought a form of guerrilla warfare against William's armies in the Fens around Ely before (probably) disappearing again, perhaps to Flanders.

Rex is very good at disentangling probable fact (there can be very few certainties at this historical distance) from the very considerable accretion of fiction that has grown up around Hereward. Establishing him as most probably the son of one Asketil, he was in Rex's view probably exiled before the Conquest for stirring up sedition, despite his obligations as a supposed protector of the church (he was a patron of Peterborough Abbey). After a mercenary career on the near continent, he returns, and William's depredations incite him to action on behalf of the monks at Ely. The author goes into great - perhaps too great - detail about the possible geography of the campaign as it ebbs and flows, before conjecturing (inconclusively, it must be said) on his disappearance.

Rex has amassed an enormous amount of detail in a relatively short book, and though he's interesting on sources like the Gesta Herewardi and Liber Eliensis, the mass of evidence and counter-argument can be overwhelming at times. I wasn't sure, either, that the final chapters slaying the `Wake' myth and on Hereward in later fiction and history, added a great deal. Rex's book is by no means a light read, so is perhaps not an ideal introduction to Hereward. But it's insightful, carefully-constructed and well-argued nonetheless.
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