Customer Reviews


12 Reviews
5 star:
 (5)
4 star:
 (5)
3 star:
 (2)
2 star:    (0)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The English Gotterdammerung
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...
Published on 8 Dec 2011 by BobH

versus
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very Dry and Uninspiring - Despite (Occasionally) Relying on Works of Fiction as Sources.
Although this book, after the index, appendices, bibliography, two prefaces and genealogies are subtracted - has a little over 100 pages, even though the source notes are at the end of their individual chapters, accounting for 10 to 15 pages of the 100.
So it is a very short book by any standards but felt like a long one to me.
I disliked the writing style,...
Published 3 months ago by Hank Norville Carter


‹ Previous | 1 2 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The English Gotterdammerung, 8 Dec 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
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). He sets about admirably tackling the confusing ancestry of Godwin, son of Wulfnoth Cild, who was responsible for establishing the family's power

A good example of Barlow's erudition and attention to detail is his examination of Harold Godwinsson's trip to Normandy culminating in the oath made to William, Duke of Normandy (PP. 96-107). He especially concentrates on the evidence of the Bayeux Tapestry (PP.99-102). However, his conclusion is quite simple: `It must, however, be accepted that whatever the circumstances may have been, Harold fell into William's grasp and took an oath of some sort.' Is that different to his conclusion in his biography of Edward the Confessor(1970): `The truth about Harold's embassy to Normandy in 1064 or 1065 cannot be established: the evidence is too unreliable'? Compare that to David Douglas (`William the Conqueror') in 1964: `...... Such are the only facts given in the earliest accounts of this famous transaction, though legend was soon to add many embellishments to the story.' It appears that years of scholarly examination has made the pond murkier. Research CAN lead to negative results which is always useful to remember.

The years 1965-6 which saw the collapse of the dynasty are examined in detail, although the attempts by Tosti to reinsert himself into the power structure might have received greater attention. Barlow is certain that Tosti was the brother favoured by his sister, Queen Emma, and perhaps this is part of the consequence. On the other hand, the battle of Hastings is covered in detail, making myself turn again to the Bayeux Tapestry, just to follow his argument. His examination of the fate of Harold's corpse again leads to uncertainty, the best judgement possible. He provides a brief review of what happened to the remnants of the English royal circle, even though most had little connection with the Godwins.

Of course, like most biographers, he displays a `sympathy' for his subject. So he plays down Godwin's role in the murder of Alfred in 1035, of which the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (Parker version) says, `No more horrid deed was done in this land, after the Danes came.' Even more surprisingly he dismisses Godwin's death in 1053 as a stroke, without referring to the dramatic (if inaccurate!) account of Godwin choking while protesting his innocence regarding Alfred's death. Likewise he is clearly a fan of Harold but then I suspect that, after reading his presentation of the `last English king', I think his readers would agree with him.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


41 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative and highly readable - a brilliant introduction to the period, 7 Mar 2007
"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.

All in all, "The Godwins" is a truly excellent book; indeed, one of the best on the subject of King Harold and the Norman Conquest. Also highly useful for understanding the social history of eleventh-century England is Richard Fletcher's "Bloodfeud: Murder and Revenge in Anglo-Saxon England", while at the same time a useful counterpart to Barlow is David C. Douglas's "William the Conqueror", which deals with the same period but from the Norman perspective.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not so much a good read as an enlightening study, 2 Dec 2002
This review is from: The Godwins (The Medieval World) (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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Factual yet easy to read, 1 Feb 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Good stuff, 15 Dec 2013
By 
J. W. Berry (Manchester, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars Could go deeper....if the facts were available!, 31 Aug 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book, 20 July 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
An absolutely excellent read, striking the balance between being academic but very readable. If you are interested in this period of history this book is a must read.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars Good, basic account, 18 Oct 2012
By 
John Hopper (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is a good, fairly short account of the rise and fall of the Godwins as a family throughout the course of the 11th century. It identifies a likely ancestry for Godwin, seven generations descended from King Ethelred I, one of Alfred's elder brothers. Much of the book deals with events with which I am very familiar with in other works and there is nothing terribly new here, although useful to have it in easily digestible form. The final chapter usefully examines the eventual fate of Harold Godwinsson's offspring - generally unknown, they had all faded into history by the end of the century. 4/5
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative and interesting, 21 Jun 2010
By 
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Reading this informative volume corrected a number of errors I had imbibed from lesser works. Very scholarly.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


7 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written story, 24 Aug 2006
By 
Birmingham Book Reader (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This is a well written book which tells it's readers the family history of the last Anglo Saxon King Harold. His Father, Brothers and their actions up the Battle of Hastings (not fought at Hastings of course but at 'Battle'!).

Great read assumes some back ground knowlege.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

The Godwins (The Medieval World)
The Godwins (The Medieval World) by Frank Barlow (Hardcover - 27 Nov 2001)
Used & New from: 6.02
Add to wishlist See buying options
Only search this product's reviews