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The King in the North: The Life and Times of Oswald of Northumbria [Kindle Edition]

Max Adams
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)

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  • Length: 464 pages
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Book Description

Oswald Whiteblade lived one of the most influential and colourful lives in early English history. Before his death in battle against the pagans of Mercia cut short his reign as king of Northumbria (634-42), he remodelled his northeastern English homeland as a Christian kingdom, founded the monastery of Lindisfarne, introduced a culture of learning which influenced all Europe, and became the most powerful ruler in Britain.

Max Adams's thrilling account rescues Oswald from Dark Age obscurity to reveal an unjustly forgotten English hero - a king whose return from exile to reclaim his birthright was the inspiration for J. R. R. Tolkien's Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings. But THE KING IN THE NORTH is more than just a biography of the first great English monarch; it is a stunningly researched, wide-ranging, beautifully written and revelatory portrait of early medieval England in all its aspects.

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Product Description


'A triumph. The most gripping portrait of 7th-Century Britain that I have read ... A Game of Thrones in the Dark Ages' Tom Holland, The Times.

'An engagingly populist and evocative book that makes a bold and effective attempt to bring a particularly obscure period in northern British history to the general reader' Literary Review.

'This early ruler had a life, and a legacy that rivals any fable' Independent.

'Gripping, hugely enjoyable and deeply scholarly.' History Today Books of the Year.

About the Author

Max Adams is the author of ADMIRAL COLLINGWOOD (2005) and THE PROMETHEANS (2009), which was a Guardian Book of the Week. A university teacher, Max has lived and worked in the North-East of England since 1993.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 8528 KB
  • Print Length: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Head of Zeus (29 Aug. 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00CGOD5K0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #31,843 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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In the land of Giants, which is released in September 2015, is the second part of a trio of Dark Age books. It recounts ten journeys through the Dark Age landscapes of Britain and Ireland. Part travelogue, part guide and part search for answers to some burning questions: how did people move about the landscape; where are their houses and monuments; is modern society basically a continuity of our ancient past? Seven of the journeys were undertaken on foot; two by motorbike and one in an old gaff cutter. The book is illustrated with my own maps and photographs.

The third part of the series, King Alfred and the Founders of Britain, will be published in 2017.

The King in the North was the first ever biography of a brilliant but obscure warlord and saint who straddles the transition between pagan and Christian worlds. Oswald was famed across Europe both before and after death: a powerful symbol of Dark Age heroism even though the reality of his life was brutal and short; a real life Beowulf or Aragorn. I have tried to construct a geography and political history of Britain in the 7th century to bring Oswald's dynasty, the Idings, to life. In doing so I hope readers will begin to see how the English state was born of their attempts to impose an idea of a rational kingship on a landscape of political chaos. The book has been beautifully produced by Head of Zeus: there are ample maps; genealogies to help fathom the complexity of unfamiliar names; and timelines to clarify the chronology. In a colour picture section images evoke aspects of Oswald's world - the world of the Lindisfarne gospels, of Sutton Hoo and the Staffordshire hoard.

An archaeologist turned historian, I was born in London in 1961, though for the last fifteen years or so I've lived in the North-east of England. My interest in Collingwood came about because I was asked to make a film about him. When I went to buy a book for my research I found there hadn't been one for forty-odd years: he was either very dull or very neglected. I'm glad it was the latter - few biographers still admire their subjects when they have spent years with them.

The Wisdom of Trees is a very personal look at our relationship with trees and woodlands - it is called The Wisdom of Trees not because I think they are wise, but because we would be wise to learn from them. It's the kind of book that I like to find in my stocking at Christmas: full of slightly geeky facts about the miracles of tree biology (how and why do oak trees communicate with each other; how to measure the height of a tree); what woodsmen get up to in the winter; and my favourite trees. It's not sentimental, but it does end with a call to bring woodlands back into our communal lives so that we can exploit and cherish them the way our ancestors did.

John Martin, the painter of seemingly lunatic biblical apocalypses and brother of the man who tried to burn down York Minster, is another neglected Geordie, but he turned into something rather different: the hub of a social and intellectual circle which included his friends Turner, Constable, the Brunels, Michael Faraday, Charles Babbage and William Godwin. When Karl Marx came along dressed as Prometheus I had my story. It took ages to get a publisher, but Quercus rescued me; we were rewarded with a very flattering Guardian Book of the Week review which adorns the new paperback.

I am a Consultant Fellow with the Royal Literary Fund.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
47 of 49 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well worth reading 14 Sept. 2013
By Gareth Wilson - Falcata Times Blog TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
An historical title and one that whilst I had heard of the subject (Oswald) was not one I knew too much about and to be honest in a culture where a lot of the heroes we get to read about are from invaders such as the Anglo Saxon's Beowulf, here we get the story of a home grown hero, a man who took his birthright, brought his kingdom under Christianity and won as well as lost his kingdom by the sword alongside having influence throughout the UK.

It's a tale that is an absolute epic on its own and deserving of the time to be brought to the fore. What Max does is sort out fact from fable, delves into the historical writings and brings this to the modern reader in a friendly as well as understandable manner. All round a great book and one that, whilst it took a while to get through, was one that I was more than happy I spent the time reading. Great stuff.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Much more than only about Oswald... 19 Jun. 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
King of the North is supposed to be about “the life and times of Oswald of Northumbria”, as the book subtitle hints at. Written in an entertaining way and targeted at the general reader, this book is much more than that, with Oswald of Northumbria being almost a pretext for telling a much wider story over a much longer period than the mere eight years during which this warrior-king reigned. In a way, this is just as well, given how little real historical information we can really rely upon.

This is perhaps the first merit because the author, who clearly knows his topic and has done his research, manages to tell the story of most of Anglo-Saxon England over a period of about four centuries, with a special focus on its northern parts, while still being able to link this to Oswald. Part of this is achieved through the pretext of providing necessary context while events subsequent to the warrior-King’s death are also described as part of the King’s legacy or as part of the growth of his legend.

Another interesting feature is the provision of chronologies for each of the book’s major sections. While these may be tentative than the author cares to admit, and also largely reflects his assumptions, choices or even educated guesses in some cases, there is no denying how helpful they are for the reader who would very likely be confused or even lost in their absence.

A third focus and strong point of this book, although there are many others as well that I will be unable to mention in this limited review, is the emphasis put on the King or, perhaps more accurately, the paramount warlord. The author clearly shows to what extent the king’s power was essentially personal.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A view from the north 16 Sept. 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Max Adams very readable biography of Oswald is steeped in a long love affair with the subject and region and an enthusiasm to share that with others.

In presenting his story he doesn't ignore the difficulties of the paucity or contradictory nature of his sources and draws deeply on his background in archaeology. I finished the book with a far better understanding of a fascinating period in the regions history and Oswald's place in it.

A minor point. As Old English names and words crop up frequently in the book, not least in the epigraphs which head each chapter, it would have been helpful to have a short pronunciation guide.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Light on the Dark Ages 17 Jun. 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
This is a very readable book that focusses on Northern Britain in the seventh century AD. It describes, through looking at King Oswald the culture, religion and life in that time. The author draws illuminating parallels with later historical events and discusses differences in religion, language between various realms as well as transport problems. I did not know much about the subject of the book when I started reading but I learnt much about this shadowy time between the classical pagan world and the early medieval world.
Well written and recommended.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic tale 24 Sept. 2013

Some non fiction reviewing for a change: A great book on the subject of Oswald Whiteblade, amazingly someone I knew little about, and that is a bit of an embarrassment for me and more so for the Historical education provided to me at school. The World of Historical fiction opens us up to so many tales about so many rich and wonderful periods and people, i'm amazed that not one writer has taken on the rich tapestry that is Oswald. A man so influential in his time that he inspired Tolkien to create the character Aragorn one of the most notable names in Fantasy fiction, converted a kingdom to Christianity, became the powerful figure in Britain. Truly a man to span the genres.

Now I like many can steer away from non fiction at times as a bit dry and detailed, with no prose worth the description. But this book is beautifully written, in such a style its very easy to forget its non fiction, to get swept up in the history, the people and the period, to call it an epic tale would not be going too far, an epic tale written for the average reader, never talking down to you, sifting the fact from the fiction and painting a vivid clear image of a man, a king and a forgotten legend.

What i need now is someone to write the fictional account of his life.... there is a whole series here guys!


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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Good surface detail but misses the bigger picture
A vivid and enjoyable read, which really brings seventh century Britain to life. I was amazed how much is known about this period, both from the written record and from... Read more
Published 6 days ago by M. D. Holley
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent.
Readable and informative. The right balance between the latest scholarship and informed speculation. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Flo
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 1 month ago by lynne boulding
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Admirably thorough and informative
Published 2 months ago by Frankenstein
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book to learn about the period of Britain's history ...
An excellent book to learn about the period of Britain's history before there was England, Scotland or Wales, a period which very rarely gets shown in it's proper context.
Published 2 months ago by Pete F
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent read
Published 3 months ago by George McCabe
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
I haven't read it yet.
Published 3 months ago by Susan H
1.0 out of 5 stars Good over view of the period
Couldn't, make up its mind if it wanted to be a scholarly work or a popular one, at times too detailed other times I was left asking questions. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Traveller
1.0 out of 5 stars Not the read I was hoping for. To be ...
Not the read I was hoping for. To be honest King of the North was delegated to try again another time. Read more
Published 3 months ago by JaxAmazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly researched,Great historical read.
One of the most comprehensive books on this period that I have read.The Author has shown great research skills,and obviously a great knowledge of this time. Read more
Published 4 months ago by paul lanigan
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