Most helpful positive review
142 of 143 people found the following review helpful
Probably one of the greatest books ever written!
on 6 December 2001
Although many would probably doubt my sanity in implying that this book is one of the greatest ever produced by mankind along with other great and more well-known works,I will attempt to justify my point...
Primarily, I first encountered this last year, whilst doing a course on Anglo-Saxon history, and we studied the Historia Ecclesiastica in great detail, which not only attempted to outline the historical content of the Early Dark Age in England and other parts of the continent, as well as trying to lay a Christian foundation of permanence in England at the time (731, when the Church here was undergoing a moral crisis), but is also written in an extremely professinal manner by Bede, even compared to modern standards. For example, Bede not only gives us an introduction, but also names his sources, and was one of the first historians to start dating events from the birth of Christ. (By all accounts his Latin was excellent too, although this is obviously done in an English translation). He doesn't start from the Anglo-Saxon invasion either, but goes right back to the arrival of the other groups on the island, such as the Celts and the Romans, as well as stating some geographic facts about Britain too.
From here, he guides the reader with clarity through the exciting, and often bloody, history of 'the English' right up until his own day.
So impressed was I with this book that I returned to do another course on the Early Mediaeval period, and bought another copy of this spectacular work to read for pleasure, and no doubt I'll return to it again and again.
Undoubtedly the only real source of historical documentation in this period in Northern Europe at this time, as well as trying to persuade the reader to learn from history's mistakes and lessons to become a better Christian, Bede sums up the book with a micro-autobiography of himself.
Not only was this a great historical 'fountain of knowledge', but it is also full of juicy 'goings-on' in this era, with battles, blood, conversions, paganism, etc, but as a contribution to world literature, its greatness is underlined by the fact that it has never been unavailable/out of print since it first appeared in 731, which is an achievement in itself.
To end with, I would personally endorse the Oxford World Classic version (Colgrave), as not only do you get more for your money, i.e. 'The Letter to Egbert', etc, this translation is the most authoratative versions available, with clear notes at the back for the more studious reader. Definitely five stars...only because I can't put more!