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The Godwins: The Rise and Fall of a Noble Dynasty (The Medieval World) [Paperback]

Frank Barlow
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
Price: 11.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

11 Sep 2003 0582784409 978-0582784406 1

The family of Earl Godwin of Wessex stands among the most famous in English history, whose most famous son was King Harold.

Frank Barlow charts the family through to Harold – the last Anglo-Saxon king – and finally the crowning of William the Conqueror during the Norman Conquest. Set against the backdrop of Viking raids and ultimately the Norman Conquest of 1066, Frank Barlow unravels the gripping history of a feuding family that nevertheless determined the course and fortunes of all the English.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 198 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (11 Sep 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0582784409
  • ISBN-13: 978-0582784406
  • Product Dimensions: 19.9 x 16.8 x 1.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 126,294 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

'[for] those who like their early Middle Ages replete with murder and mayhem...Frank Barlow has an epic tale to tell' History Today --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

The Godwins is the fascinating story of the meteoric rise and fall of the powerful Godwin dynasty, one of the grandest and most powerful families of Anglo-Saxon England, whose most famous son was King Harold. Set against the backdrop of Viking raids and ultimately the Norman Conquest of 1066, Frank Barlow unravels the the gripping history of a feuding family that nevertheless determined the course and fortunes of all the English.
The family of Earl Godwin of Wessex stands among the most famous in English history. Owing their rise to Godwin’s outstandingly successful career during the reign of the Danish King Cnut (1016-35), they became even more prominent in the time of Edward the Confessor (1042-66). Godwin’s daughter, Edith, became King Edward’s wife, his son Harold inherited his father’s earldom of Wessex, his son Tostig acquired Northumbria and other sons also became earls. Over the century they accumulated great wealth and established enormous influence.
However, Edith and Edward could not have children and ultimately this destabilised the monarchy, exposing the problem of the royal succession after Edward’s death. Harold took the throne soon after but was defeated and killed at the Battle of Hastings in 1066; Queen Edith lived in England until her death in 1075, and other survivors of Godwin’s family faded into obscurity.
Frank Barlow places the Godwins at the centre of this unstable world, charting the family through to Harold – the last Anglo-Saxon king – and finally the crowning of William the Conqueror during the Norman Conquest. [This violent upheaval in English history virtually destroyed the existing Anglo-Danish nobility, together with powerful standing of the Godwin dynasty in England.]
Frank Barlow is the author of many books including the bestselling ‘The Feudal Kingdom of England’. He is Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Exeter and Honorary Fellow of St John’s College, Oxford; CBE, FBA, FRSL. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
41 of 44 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
"The Godwins" by Frank Barlow is an excellent account of the turbulent history of England in the half-century leading up to the Norman Conquest, charting the rise and fall in fortunes of the dynasty established by Earl Godwin and which reached its zenith with the succession of his son, Harold, as king in 1066.

Though the book is less than 200 pages long, Barlow nevertheless is able to write in great depth about his period, evoking a sense of the turbulent politics and the rapidly shifting fortunes of his subjects. He describes the rapid rise of Godwin and his family, from relative obscurity in the reign of Aethelred 'the Unready' (978-1016) to power and wealth under Edward the Confessor (1042-66), and then finally to the kingship itself with Harold's succession in 1066. His account of the events leading up to the Norman invasion, as well as of the Battle of Hastings itself, is thorough and detailed in every respect.

The sources available to the historian for the 11th century are fuller than for earlier periods, but nevertheless remain somewhat fragmentary. Barlow, however, does an excellent job of drawing them all together in a scholarly yet readable manner. Indeed these sources are constantly referenced throughout the book, with a list of notes at the end of every chapter. Moreover, where there are uncertainties or discrepancies in the material, he is careful to highlight them. To help the reader keep track of the various players, there are four family trees, depicting both the Anglo-Saxon and the Danish royal lines, as well as Godwin's own family. Also included are 12 pages of black and white plates, reproducing images of the coinage of the age in addition to key scenes from the Bayeux Tapestry.
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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
This is an authoratative study of the Godwins and their role in the events leading to the Norman Conquest. There is precious little source material for a historian to work with and Prof Barlow analyses the provenance of each item. This is both the strength and the weakness of the book.
It is a careful study, rather than a good read. It does an excellent job at making the limited material formerly available to scholars acccessible to the interested reader. The book avoids the temptation at speculate on the moods and motives of that period but provides an excellent foundation for future speculations.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The English Gotterdammerung 8 Dec 2011
By BobH
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The English Gotterdammerung

`The Godwins' is an excellent study of the most powerful family in England for the generation before 1066 brought about their downfall. It is a short book and thereby I've cut its rating. If you're not a specialist in that period the flurry of names (often merely mentioned in passing) can be confusing. Here's an example of where Barlow is considering the claimants to the English throne in 1050: `.... And there were Edward's own kinsman, descendants of Aethelred the Unready, scattered across Europe, such as Edmund Ironside's descendants in Hungary, Godgifu's children by Drogo count of Mantes, Count Walter III and Ralf earl of Hereford, as well as Godgifu's second husband. Eustace II count of Boulogne'(P.55).That's the sole reference to Godgifu, apparently a daughter of Ethelred, although she doesn't appear on any of four genealogical tables supplied. The internet supplies some scrapings from the archives, usually under the name of Goda. Here's another example; `Edwin and Morcar's sister' suddenly appears on P. 85 but the index doesn't include either of the brothers, let alone their sister, until they appear on P. 94 as `Aelfgar of Mercia left two sons, Edwin and Morcar.' As for the sister, you'll only identify her as Ealdgyth of Mercia by a rather convoluted way. So I'd recommend you back up your reading by easy access to other sources.

Perhaps I'm being too negative. Barlow devotes several pages to a first-rate review of sources, especially the Victorian expert E.A. Freeman whose `general view of English history has in part come into fashion again after the rather illiberal twentieth century.' (P.14).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Factual yet easy to read 1 Feb 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is an excellent reference with a great deal of factual references which are well considered. What I also really liked was how easy it was to read. Books of this type are often a bit dry, (lots of dates, complex relationships and confusing names), and you have to make yourself keep reading. The Godwins, however, is well written, interesting and I really enjoyed reading it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good stuff 15 Dec 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The writing style is quite academic, but there is plenty of information. It is hard to find work on the Godwin's so I was pleased to find this compact book. Like I said though, it isn't an easy read due to the serious essay-like writing style, so not great if you just like a relaxed friendly history book. Printed on good quality glossy paper though, which I always appreciate.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Could go deeper....if the facts were available! 31 Aug 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I found this a very enlightening work for the research I am doing. I would recommend this for students or anyone interested in this complex period of history.
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