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Mr. Simon J. Kyte (Sevenoaks Kent UK)

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Sony NWZE585 16GB Walkman Video MP3 Player - Black
Sony NWZE585 16GB Walkman Video MP3 Player - Black
Price: 98.23

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star, 19 Aug 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
far too low volume - I know this is an EU directive thing... but I don't want to know

HP Officejet 4620 e All-In-One Printer
HP Officejet 4620 e All-In-One Printer
Offered by TAB Retail LTD
Price: 84.99

1.0 out of 5 stars terrible - there is always something wrong, 29 Jun 2014
Save yourself the bother of taking it down the recycling centre. Get something else because you will be doing within a few months anyway.

Eno Tuner ET 3000 - Guitar Tuner - Suitable for all types of guitar and comes with FREE 2 Year Warranty
Eno Tuner ET 3000 - Guitar Tuner - Suitable for all types of guitar and comes with FREE 2 Year Warranty

4.0 out of 5 stars bargain - does the trick and well, 7 April 2012
If you are completely new to guitar tuning you will want to watch a video alongside buying this. But it works effectively in both modes. Just wait for the line to hit the middle and go green! Perfect.

Area 52
Area 52

1 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars so far from the quality of the rest of their stuff, 14 Mar 2012
This review is from: Area 52 (Audio CD)
I have got all their albums and they all get played - but not this one. Went to see them live on tour with CUBA too - but left.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 19, 2012 8:10 AM BST

Leonard Cohen: Hallelujah
Leonard Cohen: Hallelujah
by Tim Footman
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.34

36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Anyone seriously interested in Cohen will be reading this book, 21 Nov 2009
Footman has created an excellent account of Cohen's music, poetry and personal life from his family's Lithuanian-Jewish roots to his recent bout of world touring. The young Cohen is defined by a combination of his father's death in 1944, his distance from the rest of Montreal's Jewish society and his nigh-on simultaneous discovery of the guitar and the Spanish poet, Lorca. Footman takes us through Cohen's failure to really penetrate the Manhattan counter-culture. Personally, I rather like this aspect of him - he feels too outside the mainstream to even feel fully comfortable with its self-defined antithesis. Instead, he found himself in London, gritting his teeth against the weather in that famous blue raincoat, hanging out at semi-legal parties held amongst the Caribbean immigrant community.

We are told how the first album was prettied up with strings and extra vocals. Nevertheless, I personally think that it has stood the test of time exceptionally well and I actually quite like the fact that the artwork - in common with almost every other Cohen album - is abysmal. The exception, of course, is the cover of `New Skin for the Old Ceremony' and here, I think, Footman implies that there are only two versions of the cover (unless I have missed something - easily done reading on a commuter journey): the one on the UK release and a completely different one for the US audience. Actually I think there are at least 4 versions with varying degrees of censorship of the image derived from the Rosarium philosophorum - which, by the way, is mis-spelled in the sleeve notes to the CD. Nonetheless, it is a powerful image and, for me, fits well with what I find inspiring about Cohen. The book actually got me thinking: `Why do I actually like Cohen?', particularly given that I don't have much in common with him. But I think that that is just it: there is a kind of alchemy which transfigures his religious imagery, sexual wanderings, sardonic, self-referential wit and, sometimes, plain misery into something else. Footman speaks of the `difficult' (and not always exactly joyous) third album as though a tendency towards the depressing is something new in Cohen which rather misses the fact that songs on the second such as Bird on a Wire have lyrics about stillborn babies and the like. I found the discussion of Death of a Ladies' Man very interesting as it is an album to which I have never taken in spite of the fact that it was the only Cohen album to which I was exposed in childhood.

Moving on to the `relatively cheerful' phase, Footman is right to say both that I'm Your Man reinvigorated a career that seemed to have fallen to pieces and that, in comparison, The Future is rather disappointing. I am not sure that `gratuitously nasty' really describes the `jaunty' title track; I would prefer to describe it as a mixture of irony and scepticism - a statement of preference for familiarity over uncertainty, which I think is broadly what Footman is saying as well. Actually, I think there are moments when 10 New Songs - after too many releases without the word `song' in the title - is amongst the most depressing of all. For example,' Here it is ...your cardboard and piss' is not a lyric ideally suited to being a background at a dinner party.

There are plenty of references and comparisons to other recording artists, producers, poets etc. but these tend not to get in the way of the main thrust of the text, although clearly Footman is exceptionally knowledgeable about them. Coverage of the poetry - about which I know very little - also seemed to be very thorough and well researched. Also well documented here are some trips based on political sympathies at the time: Castro's Cuba (which ended with Cohen rejecting Castro as yet another oppressive dictator) and his trip to Israel during the Yom Kippur War. Footman's comments are sometimes rather perceptive as well as witty: `how his music, then at its bleakest and most morbid, might conceivably aid the morale of the embattled soldiers has never really been explained'. Good point.

Footman probably realised that any attempt at a `top 10' songs would result in lively discussion. I wrote a quick list of songs that `had to be' in mine and soon found that I have exceeded 15 without even thinking too hard. In short, for me, the sum of his work is greater than the constituent parts as the listener becomes increasingly familiar with a `pre-existing story of Leonard Cohen'. Anyway, for what it's worth, here's an alternative `top 10' with either Suzanne or Bird on a Wire - not because they shouldn't be there but rather because everyone would expect them to be there. Of course, you could easily say the same of Hallelujah these days.

1) Dance me to the end of love
2) Take this longing
3) Famous blue raincoat
4) The stranger song
5) Who by fire?
6) Joan of Arc
7) Leaving Greensleeves
8) Avalanche
9) Hallelujah
10) Waiting for the miracle

On the subject of Various Positions, I had never actually realised that it was a bad album; I have always thought that it had some great songs on it and I actually quite like the `sound' of it.

As well as a kind of `essay' on Cohen and Dylan and a heap of extra material on Hallelujah, there is a comprehensive list of studio albums, live albums, selected bootlegs, compilations (minus the revamped Greatest Hits which appears to be on sale?), singles and cover versions. Footman makes a point of giving us the `stories' behind the songs - which is very interesting. But, in the end, for me, whether Take this longing was written for / about Nico or not, doesn't change how I feel about the song. So, does that mean that Leonard Cohen has to be experienced rather than explained? Whatever, anyone serious about Cohen needs to read this.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 24, 2011 10:21 AM GMT

English Reformations: Religion, Politics, and Society under the Tudors
English Reformations: Religion, Politics, and Society under the Tudors
by Christopher Haigh
Edition: Paperback
Price: 32.00

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars England's 'interrupted and difficult' Reformation, 15 Aug 2008
Haigh argues there were Reformations rather than one Reformation and that the process was interrupted and difficult. That implies that the populace held to Catholicism - which Haigh argues was a functioning framework - through choice. England already had an anti-Catholic underground in the form of the Lollards but they lacked credibility after the Oldcastle Rebellion (1414).

English Lollardy and imported Lutheranism came out of the closet under the protection of Cromwell, Crammer and Anne Boleyn. The two Universities did most of the legwork through Cardinal's College in Oxford and the White Horse Tavern in Cambridge. The arrival of Bucer from Strasburg and Martyr from Italy (a defender of Zwingli) accentuated this. Stereotyping early critics of the religious regime helped to unify opposition. Bilney was characterised by the authorities as `Lutheran' whilst only sharing some common ground with them such as the prohibition of veneration of images. Although found guilty, Tunstall kept the case open as Wolsey wanted a repentant conformer not a martyr. Facts about his relapse and subsequent burning in 1531 are confused.

Haigh argues that the preaching of Protestantism remained `limited and patchy'. We need to deal with one of the most contentious claims head-on. According to Haigh, Protestantism did not appeal to women. 30% of men could read but only 10% of women. Why should it be a surprise that there were more male Protestants than female? Certainly, Protestantism had a spatial bias, being concentrated in the Kent, London, Essex and around the Universities. Haigh claims that even in Colchester in 1553, Protestants were a minority.

England's `Reformation' began in Henry VIII's reign through political accident. The fall of More in 1532 was followed by the release of people formerly considered heretics. In 1538 injunctions ordered the destruction of devotional images. But Henry was responsible for stopping his own Reformation, starting with the case of Lambert. The Act of Six Articles was a personal disaster for Cranmer and Cromwell - particularly as Cranmer had a wife who had to be packed off to Germany. It made denial of transubstantiation a burning issue. Cromwell was executed in 1540 and Barnes, Garrett and Jerome also died at the stake. After Cromwell's fall, the Reformation was not only stoppable but reversible. The revision of the Bishops' Bible demonstrated no `justification by faith', the central tenet of Lutheranism. Cranmer tried to salvage faith even if it would not be `faith alone' but the final Act restricted even the reading of Bibles. Only the break with Rome and suppression of monasteries survived.

Henry might have died in 1546 but over 4 months everything changed. His unsigned will was probably doctored by Paget as Protestants tried to push through their plans for Lady Gray. Elsewhere in the book, Haigh rubbishes the importance of will preambles but here he suggests that Henry's is essentially Catholic. Recent scholarship challenging the assumption that Edward VI was a sickly child is not incorporated. Over the next 6 years church images were ripped down, Protestant Prayer Books were enforced, clergy married and English prayers were introduced. Haigh argues that this march of Protestantism is an illusion. The 1549 Prayer Book was a compromise pleasing neither side. However, the 1552 Act of Uniformity made a decisive break with the past being essentially Calvinist in outlook. The new Book of Common Prayer that year was designed to exclude Papist errors but also responded to the threat of Anabaptism. Its position on predestination was also deliberately vague.

Edward died on 6th July 1553. Six days later there were reports that Mary had been proclaimed Queen in Suffolk. Haigh claims that she had overwhelming support in the country and was swept to power in a revolution. Under Mary, Protestants tried to present a `united credal front'. However, there were separate Zurich and Lutheran camps - amongst others. Henry Hart, an old Lollard from Kent, turned up in Essex preaching that salvation is available to all not just an elect - a thoroughly anti-Calvinist message. According to Haigh, Mary never intended the brutal holocaust she instigated. She wanted to act `without rashness' but there were major miscalculations on Gardiner's part in his choice of burnings.

Mary died in November 1558 by which time it seemed certain that Elizabeth would be Queen as Mary Queen of Scots, the most likely Catholic contender, was married to the French Dauphin. Policy advisers warned Elizabeth that anything other than gradual reform carried severe risks but she threw her lot in with the Protestants. The Parliamentary struggles of 1559 not only produced another ambiguous Book of Common Prayer, they frightened Elizabeth into a conciliatory position. However, the Royal Visitation proceeded along Cranmer's example of 1548. Elizabeth was outraged at the results and quickly moved to restore roods in churches. Yet she was forced to agree to another phase of official iconoclasm.

Nearly all early Elizabethan parish clergy were recruited as Catholic priests. Gradually this Catholic-rooted old guard died off and was replaced by Protestants. Catholicism became either a religion in exile as at Louvain or an underground, `country house' religion at home. Critical to this was Pius V's hard line on Catholics attending church services in England. By the middle of Elizabeth's reign there is mounting evidence of Protestant breakthroughs. By the end, Catholicism had disintegrated into a small sect.

Under pre-Reformation Catholicism, both thinking and unthinking Christians were all Catholics. But Protestantism had an exclusivist model with a single route to salvation. Yet, in spite of all the legislative changes, the new service acquired the appeal of the old; the Book of Prayer took on the role of the mass. England after the Reformation had 4 types of Christian: godly Protestants, recusant Catholics, Old Catholics and `parish anglicans'. The last of these were despised by both sides and were seen as potential Papists by the Protestants. For Catholics several decades had changed everything. Many Protestants wondered how so little could have changed.

An Introduction to Quakerism (Introduction to Religion)
An Introduction to Quakerism (Introduction to Religion)
by Pink Dandelion
Edition: Paperback
Price: 18.61

11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An exploration of the diversity within the Quaker faith, 22 Jan 2008
The traditional interpretation of the birth of Quakerism is associated with the series of events which took place in Lancashire and Westmorland in 1652. On Pendle Hill Fox had a vision drawn from Revelations of a `great people in white raiment'. Pendle Hill did have associations with witchcraft from the trails and murders of 1612 but Dandelion does not give the real source of inspiration any attention: on the other side of Pendle Hill lay Grindleton, the de facto home of English non-Conformity. The Seekers are mentioned but only given brief context. In fact they were important as some key early Quakers such as Howgill and Burrough were formerly Seekers (and Howgill may also have been a former Grindletonian) and the movement had a strong impact on some of the northern Dales of Yorkshire. The `raiment' vision was fulfilled in Sedbergh. Just outside, Howgill was preaching to a Seeker congregation at Firbank Fell. But to Fox, `seeking' was now over (in spite of the traditional view that Quakers are `waiting'), Christ was available personally and `meantimes' had given way to the `endtime'.

The book's understanding of early Quakerism is relatively conventional, arguing that Quaker theology began at a low point of Fox's life. In reality, there is now plenty of evidence of use of the term amidst the New Model Army. Fox's Dissent experience included his (Ana)Baptist uncle and his time amongst the army camps but it proved unsatisfactory. He was thrown to the inward, the return to Eden through the flaming sword. To Fox the inward was now the authentic spirituality. The outward could now be defined as part `the world'. Pefectism (i.e. the possibility of being incapable of sin) brought the early Quakers into disrepute amongst other sects and allowed misinterpretation by groups such as the Ranters. Technically both the Catholic Church and the Church of England accept their temporary nature. God will eventually be immediately present to his people and the ministry of the Churches will belong to the realm which passes away. For early Quakers that `passing away' was already being realised. All other variants of Christianity were apostate and anachronistic.

Dandelion keeps the term `Restoration Quakerism' but accepts that it can be pushed back as far as 1653. Hill, the leftist historian, argued something rather different: that from 1652 changes in Quaker theology were driven by expansion in the south rather than in traditional strongholds. Variant theological backgrounds led to different interpretations of endtime and the Second Coming. Inconsistent direct revelations were a major issue. There was more focus on Jesus and a watering down of the perfection doctrine. Critical was the Nayler Incident in 1656. One of the others involved was Dorcas Erbury. Dandelion gives her no attention but she was the daughter of William Erbury who had preached universal redemption, quoted Böhme and denied Christ's divinity. Nayler was accused of having raised Dorcas from the dead in Exeter gaol although he denied this. Dorcas described Nayler as `the holy one of Israel' and claimed `no other Saviour but him'. The lack of attention to the possible early influence of Erbury is - in my opinion - a major oversight.

The Quietist period takes its usual drubbing. The Quakers shift from being God's co-agents to a corner of the world preoccupied with sin, which necessitates policing. However, the focus on Jones' belief that this period was underpinned by the Continental philosophies of Molinos, Fenelon and Guyon seems to deny that absolute passivity was an element of some sections of proto-Quakerist Seekerism.

Dandelion then gives a very detailed and easy-to-understand coverage of the complex splits which emerged in the Quaker trans-Atlantic Quaker movement post-1827. Elias Hicks' focus on the Inner Light led him to a position where he rejected the Bible as authoritative. The split spread via the New York and Ohio Yearly Meetings (YMs) in 1828. British Friends were united in rejecting Hicks, even though there were at least four competing trends for the soul of Quakerism in Britain. Isaac Crewdson's response was so extreme that it disunited him from many Friends - namely, that the Inner Light had no scriptural basis and was an illusion. In 1836 Crewdson left the Quakers as did some others in Manchester, Kendal and London. The Hicksite split concealed wider splits with Orthodoxy between those who wanted to be true to the traditional position and those who saw themselves as part of a larger Christian movement. Wilbur held firmly to the idea that the Quakers were a `peculiar people'. Gurney wanted to remould Quakers around a more general, Protestant evangelical tradition.

Part 2 of the book is about worldwide Quakerism today in 6 general types, largely related to American schism histories: those associated with Friends United Meeting (48%), those who rejected FUM to become Evangelical Friends International (30%), unprogrammed YMs belonging to the Friends' General Conference (8.9%), conservatives who maintained some residual concept of `the hedge' based mainly in America but without isolated groups worldwide affiliated to Ohio YM (Conservative) (0.4%), & unaffiliated liberal YMs (6.8%). The sixth group consists of Central in Indiana and Santidad in Bolivia who have no contact with any other Quaker grouping - including one another.

As Liberal Quakerism developed in the early twentieth century, it was able to present itself as `recovering' traditional Quaker ground whilst actually making significant breaks with tradition. Within what Dandelion labels `liberal-Liberal Quakerism' Christianity has given way to Pluralism. From the perspective of his system of graphics, extreme liberal Quakerism has `fallen off the edge' with `theology a story, God an option'. Therefore for most the Second Coming can longer be part of the story; `For those without a first coming, a second coming makes no sense.' To be fair (and not meaning to take issue with Dandelion) this position has some tradition within the Quaker movement. It is more or less the position Robert Barclay took in 1678 - controversial then and still controversial now.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 24, 2009 5:26 PM GMT

Jacob Boehme (Western Esoteric Masters)
Jacob Boehme (Western Esoteric Masters)
by Robin Waterfield
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.62

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An introduction to The Teutonic Philosopher, 21 Jan 2008
Heavily influenced by German Spiritual, Kaspar Schwenkfeld, as well as by the Hermetica, the Jewish Zohar, alchemy and astrology, Böhme (1575-1624) always remained a practising member of the Lutheran Church - even though he and his family was persecuted by it. In England he is best known for his influence on seventeenth century sects and yet Böhme himself shows very little interest in sectarianism. In the Third Book of Regeneration he tells us that the `true Christian is of no sect'. Although Böhme went out of fashion for a while, his ideas received the patronage (ironically) of Charles I and were very much in the air whilst Milton was writing Paradise Lost. Others he influenced include: Law, Wesley, Blake, Morgan Llwyd, the Philadelphian Society and the Romantic Movement.

Böhme was born at Alt Seidenberg near Görlitz, Silesia some three decades after Luther's death. The Reformers were creating their own orthodoxy and attempting to stamp out heterodox strands of theology. Görlitz found itself far to the east of the epicentre of orthodox Lutheranism's influence and the province of Lusatia became a focus for dissent and a centre in its own right for humanist thought. The astrological advances of Nikolai Kopernik and those in the medical field by Paracelsus were overturning some of the global misconceptions that Lutheranism had inherited from its parent-enemy, Rome. Lutheranism's block on free-thinking would mean that many further scientific developments were put `on hold' until the rise of Puritanism in England.

Schwenkfeld emerges as his single biggest influence and yet Böhme was his posthumous pupil, critic and revisionist at the same time. The German-speaking world was brimming over with alternative sects including those with Anabaptist roots - a dangerous association considering what had happened at Münster. Another unexpected influence arrived in Germany in time to influence Böhme. Calling for a Reformatio Nova, Rosicrucian leaflets began to appear - first in Cassel, but later over a wider geographical area.

It seems unlikely that a shoemaker (cf. later Quaker, Fox, who was clearly influenced by Böhme) would have created such a corpus. However, Böhme was only working in shoemaking because he was in too poor health to continue his family's yeoman farming business. How he developed such literary skills and learned so much remains a mystery. We do know that when Martin Moller became Primarius he established a study group who were self-defined as `The Conventicle of God's Real Servants' and Böhme was an enthusiastic participant. Moller was certainly a well-read man with some interest in mystical Christianity. However, Böhme had already had a strange experience when the sun shone on a pewter mug before him and he claimed that the hidden secrets of nature had been revealed to him. It may not have been the first as we also know that as a child, he and some friends claimed to have found a large trove of money in a cave, which was never seen again. In 1610, he claimed to experience a special calling from the Divine and in January 1612 he started work on Morgenrote im Anfang oder Aurora. It was complete by Whitsuntide.

Moller left Görlitz to be replaced by the stringently orthodox, Gregor Richter. According to Böhme he was not simply orthodox, he was a coarse, ignorant alcoholic. What the true motivation behind fellow Conventicle member, Carl von Ender's, decision to copy and circulate the Aurora text was we may never know. In July 1613 Richter had the shoemaker arrested. Indeed he played on the image of a poorly-educated tradesperson, accusing him of being `smelly'. However, Böhme was released on condition that he refrained from writing further. It was clear to Paracelsian student, Balthasar Walter that Böhme's work was of great potential influence. He joined Böhme's extensive family at his house for several months, drawing Böhme into a network of physicians and Paracelsian scholars which included Johann Huser and Tobias Kobler. Although it is not given any attention by Waterfield, the changes in Böhme's theosophy may have accelerated at this point.

Ironically, Böhme's first formal appearance in print took place only in the last year of his life - perhaps the most eventful. Der Weg zu Christo was published by Abraham von Frankenburg and was a collection of writings. The Way to Christ operated almost in a coded language accessible only to his followers. Richter was infuriated. In March 1624 the Council decided that Böhme was a delusional fantasist and that he must `pitch his tent elsewhere'. The events that followed brought Böhme to a state of physical exhaustion. Even in death he was not afforded peace.

Waterfield provides not only an interesting selection of longer extracts, but also a good biography and reasonable introduction to his philosophy. The texts follow Sparrow's seventeenth century translations. Unfortunately, Waterfield equates coming to terms with Böhme with coming to terms with alchemical studies - which is only partly fair. There are indeed some very unfamiliar concepts in a Christian context - such as Grund und Ungrund (Byss and Abyss). The latter is die ewige Stille (eternal rest) but it is not static. Rather, it is a dynamic and ever-increasing perfection. Movement cannot exist without internal opposition and Böhme goes on to describe the 7 `Forms' of Nature: Harshness, Attraction, Bitterness, Fire, Light, Sound and, finally, Figure - the realisation of the whole. The first six forms parallel the six days of creation and St Augustine's perfect number.

Waterfield's decision to focus on texts with an alchemical background is redeemed by his quoting of Böhme at his most direct. On the question of where the Soul goes after death, Böhme states: `It has no need to go; it has heaven and hell within itself. The Kingdom of God is within you - Heaven and Hell are within one another.' Perhaps this makes up for the lack of emphasis on what Böhme would have wanted to leave as a one line message: that the Husk of the old man needs to be cast away to give birth to the New Man.

The Origins of the British: A Genetic Detective Story
The Origins of the British: A Genetic Detective Story
by Stephen Oppenheimer
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.09

182 of 197 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Germanic peoples in Britain before the `Anglo-Saxons'? Genes can only ever be part of the story., 6 Jun 2007
Oppenheimer contends that Britain's genetic stock is driven by migrations from glaciation refuges such as the Basque region and the Balkans. The `Celtic' fringe forms part of an Atlantic coastal zone of influence from Iberia active from 15,000 years ago. Nearly the entire source of western Britain's gene pool is from `Ruisko' and its re-expansions R1b-9, R1b-5 and R1b-14, as well as R1b-10, the main gene cluster moving into the British Isles during the Mesolithic. In contrast, eastern England produces a more mixed picture starting with the I1c group spreading from the Balkans just before the Younger-Dryas reglaciation but then complicated by waves from different directions (e.g. I1a during the late Mesolithic, J1a from N Germany, J1b1 from Norway as well as the Neolithic re-expansion of R1b-12). However, whilst some of the gene maps look superficially convincing, others don't: I1c being a case in point; I1b2 with a strange and unexplained Sardinian foundation event even more so.

Less controversial is the now accepted argument that there was no Celtic homeland in Central Europe associated with Hallstatt and La Tène. However, Oppenheimer draws on research suggesting that the Celtic language group may have broken away from the Germanic and Romance languages thousands of years prior to the sort of time most linguists would expect. The old P-Celtic and Q-Celtic division is swept away and even the strange Vennemann Hypothesis is brought in regarding a possible Atlantic-Semitic substrate.

There does turn out to be a marked watershed between eastern England and western Britain but the difference goes back much further than the Germanic invasions of which Gildas and Bede speak. Potentially, this is where the book gets interesting as, Oppenheimer aside, there are real problems surrounding the `Anglo-Saxon' invasions and the origins of English. What happened to Brythonic, the Celtic language which is supposed to have been spoken across England prior to the fifth century? According to Gildas and later commentators, there was some mass extermination (and potentially even apartheid) but nobody has ever stumbled upon a mass grave and there are hardly any loan words from Celtic languages in Old English. According to Oppenheimer, it is because it wasn't spoken in much of England.

Caesar famously starts his Gallic Wars by explaining that Gaul is divided into three - the northern part being Belgic. It is likely that this area was Germanic speaking for the most part and when Roman writers say that Britain was much like France opposite it, they are really implying not Celtic populations - but Germanic ones. So perhaps Britain already had large areas speaking a Germanic language as `lingua franca'. That might explain the situation with the Atrebates - a tribal name which appears on both sides of the Channel but Oppenheimer neglects to mention the Ogham inscription found at Silchester - their capital.

Suddenly Oppenheimer is all over the shop. English gets mooted as a fourth branch of Germanic, having more in common with the Scandinavian languages than Western Germanic. Everything is brought in to support this: runic inscriptions (with no analysis of the futhorc differences), Beowulf (with completely spurious comments on its dialect, no consideration of the fact that formal poetry is always `conservative' or why the odd seemingly Celtic word turns up: `Com on wanre niht scrithan sceadugenga'), coin distributions etc. He almost manages to disprove himself: if the people here before the fifth century were similar to Nordic populations and used runes, they couldn't have been the same people who were guarding the `Saxon' Shore because there have never been any discoveries of runic inscriptions along the supposedly densely-populated South Coast.

Oppenheimer is an amateur geneticist but he sounds convincing at it (at least to me). In contrast, his analysis of the early `Saxon' period is riddled with holes: no mention of St Albans and its absence of pagan cemeteries, no mention of Cerdic - the British name connected with the foundation of Wessex, no mention of the fact that according to self-penned Anglo-Saxon histories some places such as the Cotswolds were not under Anglo-Saxon control until the end of the 570s, no mention of how long Bernicia might have stayed outside of the newcomers' influence. No mention either of things that might help his case: of Britain's links under Rome with Trier, or the continuity implied by the Hwicce's use of Bath (or who they might be); no thought about whether Offa's Dyke might turn out to be far older than Offa. However, I do like his clear distinction separating Angles from Saxons - it is interesting that Danish Vikings only invaded those areas of Anglian settlement (with the one exception inside Danegeld being Essex).

He misses something really obvious though and it was right in front of him in his source material. Bede actually mentions the Danes living in England before the attacks on the coast. He also mentions the Rugini, a people who we know moved from the Baltic region to Central Europe and then moved with Attila, and the Boructuari (Boructware). Significantly we also know that some Germanic pottery found in England seems to predate 410. There is also no speculation as to why Kent and the Franks should have such tight cultural links (Frankish names, the conversion to Christianity, AEthelberht's daughter's protection under Dagobert I).

Once the idea that pre-5th century Britain was exclusively Romano-Celtic is ditched, all sorts of other ideas beyond Oppenheimer are raised. Are we even looking in the right century for the Arthur legend? Was the call from tribes in Britain for help from Rome in response to a resurfacing Germano-British conflict? Was Berikos / Varica in some way connected with Berkshire - a name which has created some problems up until now? When the Franks claim control over Kent, is this a sign of an ongoing division between East and West Kent (which resurfaces) and between Jutes and Franks? Haplotypes, mtDNA and NRY gene groups won't answer these questions.
Comment Comments (12) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 8, 2012 10:06 AM BST

The Cathars: Dualist Heretics in Languedoc in the High Middle Ages (The Medieval World)
The Cathars: Dualist Heretics in Languedoc in the High Middle Ages (The Medieval World)
by Malcolm Barber
Edition: Paperback
Price: 33.99

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars DUALIST HERESY IN LANGUEDOC, 8 May 2007
Catharism represents a 200 year challenge to Catholicism. Its success was probably down to its support from the aristocracy of Southern France which allowed it to develop a formalised administrative structure in contrast to similar heresies in the Rhineland or Flanders where there were particular class group, such as textile workers, who formed the base of heretical movements. As a theology it was grounded in dualism but initially this was a mix of absolute and mitigated dualism. The shift to absolute dualism came in the late twelfth century with the St Félix-de-Caraman Council. After this theological paradigmatic shift Catharism and Catholicism failed to find any common ground and in 1209 Pope Innocent III decided that force was the only option to counter it.

Dualism in eastern Europe has a long history stretching from Greek Gnosticism to the Bogomils. Its history in the west is far shorter. Nicetas was in Lombardy when he convinced `a certain bishop named Mark' who was already at the centre of a heresy across much of Northern Italy. Together they travelled to St Félix. Italian Catharism seems to have splintered with the news that Simon the Drugunthian, who had consecrated Nicetas, may not have been celibate.

Entry into the Cathar elite was via a ceremony inherited in large part from the Bogomils - the consolamentum. Being more exposed to theological arguments and having more contact with the Bogomil east, most Cathar theological texts actually come from Italy rather than France. `The Secret Supper' predates the Nicetas mission, was probably a Bogomil text and described Satan as the original regulator of all things who sat alongside the Father. Too greedy, he was cast out but not without taking one third of the angels with him. God forgave him and Satan created the material world with his dominion supported by Enoch and Moses. God sent Christ to expose that Satan was not the one true god which he claimed to be. The Virgin Mary was not a mortal; she was the angel of the Lord. To counter Satan sent his angel, Elijah, in the guise of John the Baptist. This is the moderate dualist position. On account of the Fall from grace the Catholic Church found some common ground.

One of the earliest theologians to reject the above was Desiderius - the first sign of a potential break between the theology of the Bogomils and the developing Cathar movement. However, the real prime mover is the writer of `The Book of Two Principles', assumed to be John of Lugio. Lugio's book suggests that Catharism was now forging its own ideas in which each `principle' had existed for eternity and each had created its own world.

`La Gleisa de Dio' expected chastity of the perfecti, promoted abstention from meat, eggs, cheese and chicken, and taught its adherents to refuse to lie, kill or take oaths. It also rejected the Catholic concepts of contrition and confession, playing down sin before the consolamentum. Cathars ate fish - perhaps because they believed that transmigration of souls was limited to warm-blooded creatures. Eggs were also incriminated as being `begotten of coition'.

There are extensive chapters on how the Cathar movement was stifled. The Albigensian Crusades handed out the right to occupy land seized from the Cathars; the Pope always interested primarily in dividing the aristocracy of the South. However, the massacre of Béziers and the seizure of Carcasonne in August 1209 would not undermine Catharism in the way that a tedious war of attrition against the political infrastructure would. However, after 1209 the Cathar movement was fundamentally changed; its confidence replaced by defensiveness.

The renewed crusade in 1210-11 picked off the castra of the local nobility one-by-one but the territory of Raymond Roger de Foix proved more difficult. Montfort attempted to attack Toulouse but abandoned the siege. In 1212 however, reinforcements were brought in from across Europe. Montfort's position throughout was affected by papal vacillation as the Pope himself was subject to competing influences. The French Crown became involved and Beaujeu's attacks on the Toulousan hinterland brought Raymond VII to the Treaty of Paris in 1229. The murder of inquisitors at Avignonat sparked the iconic attack on Montségur in 1243-44 which pulled the plug on Cathar supporting infrastructure.

The book also goes into reasonable detail on the Autier Revival and its support from Bernard of Taix. When the Autier brothers made the decision to journey to Lombardy many wondered if they had leprosy or whether they were leaving as criminals. Their return in 1300 was even more subtle. However, they were still denounced by William Déjean - although he was later thrown off a cliff never to be found. The extension of the heresy in the 1300s was far further into the mountains but it was never based on a firm foundation. The likes of Bernard Gui were therefore able to pick it apart. It is possible that some of the Cathars fled to join the Alpine Waldensians in a region through which they had often trekked between southern France and Lombardy and both La Gleisa de Dio and Glosa Pater suggest mitigated dualism and the former has eschatological themes in line with Joachimite ideas. The fact that Waldensian ideas are not discussed is, in my opinion, one of the book's weaknesses.

There is also a chapter on the Cathar influence on twentieth century thinking: on Simone Weil and Otto Rahn and on the relationship between Catharism and the Occitan identity - including the Félibrige movement to promote Occitan and the `vulgarisation' of Catharism. At the back is a dazzling list of sources and suggestions for further reading, chronologies of the crusade and a selection of maps. All in all, well worth the rather extortionate price for anyone who wants to learn about the Cathar `heresy'. (Please note here that it appears to be far cheaper on Amazon!) In spite of my interest in history, I found the theological sections more interesting than all the military and political details.

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