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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great insights into the people of Britain after the fall of Rome
I disagree strongly with the reviews above. The approach the author took of focussing on the archaeology and - even better- what the bones and remains tell us about how the post Roman world in Britain lived, got sick, and died -was fascinating. For me the last chapter was worth the price of the book alone. There are numerous books about the great men, and many on the...
Published on 18 Aug. 2012 by A. Browne

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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars TR
Although I enjoyed the book, it seemed flawed in two major respects, and perhaps its author was almost too determined to hold to her interpretation of evidence which is still limited. Firstly, the flaws; the book cannot be seriously described as any sort of history of the largest part of Britain, since it focuses on the south-east/midlands of England, with only what seem...
Published on 29 Dec. 2010 by TR


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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars TR, 29 Dec. 2010
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This review is from: Britain after Rome: The Fall and Rise, 400 - 1070: Anglo-Saxon Britain: V.2 1 (Allen Lane History) (Hardcover)
Although I enjoyed the book, it seemed flawed in two major respects, and perhaps its author was almost too determined to hold to her interpretation of evidence which is still limited. Firstly, the flaws; the book cannot be seriously described as any sort of history of the largest part of Britain, since it focuses on the south-east/midlands of England, with only what seem to be token excursions into the wider area. This is not a book to consult if one wants a British or even an English overview. The book concentrates on the archaeological evidence, and hardly considers such written evidence as exists. This means, of course that it is a history of `ordinary lives' and downplays the history of chieftains, kings, and the growth and decline of states. The preceding volume of the series did an excellent job of welding together the two types of history based on the two types of evidence, and as a result presented a comprehensive view of the Roman occupation of a large part of Britain; this volume in contrast, seems very narrow. It is especially disappointing, that as a part of a series tracing the development of Britain, there is little attempt to consider the antecedents and progress of the two states in Wessex and Argyll, which eventually divided the whole island between them. My other main question concerned her overview of the Anglo-Saxon arrival in England. I found it very hard to reconcile the notion that it was simply a gradual inflow of small groups, who mixed their culture with that of the indigenous peoples to form something distinct from the culture developed by those people remote from the inflows. Given DNA evidence that the actual numbers of immigrants were less than 10% of the indigenous population, and given that they had been far less in contact with the `advanced' Roman culture, than many native Britons, it is surely hard to explain their success in creating a dominant different culture, without an element of conquest. Hengist and Horsa may indeed be mythical, but the idea that there was no factual basis for the myth, and that it was nothing but a convenient later fabrication, seems perverse.
I should end by acknowledging that the author clearly had her own objectives, and if I discerned them correctly, she has largely achieved them and written an interesting book which synthesises much archaeological information. My disappointment is that she has not really written a book living up to the title, nor to the series of which it is a part.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great insights into the people of Britain after the fall of Rome, 18 Aug. 2012
This review is from: Britain after Rome: The Fall and Rise, 400 - 1070: Anglo-Saxon Britain: V.2 1 (Allen Lane History) (Hardcover)
I disagree strongly with the reviews above. The approach the author took of focussing on the archaeology and - even better- what the bones and remains tell us about how the post Roman world in Britain lived, got sick, and died -was fascinating. For me the last chapter was worth the price of the book alone. There are numerous books about the great men, and many on the written sources- I seem to have bought and read many of them. But there are few on how people actually lived, and the emerging archaeological evidence with proper scientific analysis of the organic remains is beginning to unlock this shadowy period. Some gruesome and memorable finds as well- for example the woman with the lopsided grin who was flung onto the grave of another woman and crushed by a millstone- with the indications being that she was trying to get up. A punishment? Witchcraft? Who knows?

I finished the book, with a far more vivid picture of what the people in an early Saxon village may have looked like- the ridges on the teeth from poor harvests , the lack of women after deaths in child birth, and the illnesses they suffered. Recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Archaeologically based interpretation of History, 12 Feb. 2013
This review is from: Britain after Rome: The Fall and Rise, 400 - 1070: Anglo-Saxon Britain: V.2 1 (Allen Lane History) (Hardcover)
Fascinating, An approach based on collating archaeological evidence to bring some kind of sense to what happened after the legions left thats not based on heresay . We have our long held beliefs in swarms of vikings and saxons etc invading certain areas but apparently not so. The style type and quantity of nick-nacks found in the ground show to an extent how real people lived and Mr Fleming has woven these threads into a convincing tapestry. Insight into the acquisition of creditable hereditary authority from previous occupants and the land itself was entirely new to me. A revelation and convincing gap filler for the mystery of the dark ages . no pictures !! I suppose it's hard to choose from such a wide scope but i would have enjoyed whatever. If you are interested in the "dark ages" this is a great book. i'm about to recommend it to my son.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I actually liked the book, 9 Feb. 2011
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A. E. Finn (Reading) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Britain after Rome: The Fall and Rise, 400 - 1070: Anglo-Saxon Britain: V.2 1 (Allen Lane History) (Hardcover)
I know very little about the era and so picked the book as a starter. I find it well written and interesting. I agree that it is evidence based on what comes out of the ground and so can be tedious- describing the range of broach designs in female graves or very odd, again why were teeth put in womens graves.
I think the gaps in the narrative are because of lack of evidence. She says that York and London were abandoned, but does not say where everyone went. Do we imagine late Roman shop keepers putting up the shutters and wandering off to find a plot of land to farm? Sometimes England is cut off, the next chapter it is still firmly attached to the culture of Europe.
One point I found of interest, and again this may be my ignorance, was they way invsaion and immigration have been downplayed. As a kid (early 70s) I was taught England was innundated with waves of invaders and immigrants, each new wave pushing the natives westwards. Under the recent labour years this concept of the English as a "mongrel race" was pushed the promote the massive recent immigration. This book rather goes for the idea of an influx of culture rather than persons, a small but significant group of people importing ideas and wares that the local population adopted, then adapted.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a history of Britain, 24 Jan. 2011
By 
tolkein (Chelmsford, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Britain after Rome: The Fall and Rise, 400 - 1070: Anglo-Saxon Britain: V.2 1 (Allen Lane History) (Hardcover)
I liked bits of the book. But it's not about Britain, but about, mainly England.

I found her discussion about the growth of towns in the 9th and 10th centuries interesting and plausible. I think she is surely right here.

Right at the end she discusses signs of health in bones and this was truly illuminating for me. There could have been more on this rather than a throwaway comment on a rise in stature after the Fall.

The book was painfully light on quantifiable facts. What was the Roman population at the peak, and then in the early 5th and 6th centuries? How did Britain become English rather than Welsh? What were the factors behind the changes in land use in the 8th-10th centuries? Where did England get all its silver (and the note that the Godwinson family had land worth 2.75 tonnes of silver a year brought home the staggering wealth of the elites) and some of her comments were breathtaking. She notes that the incoming English came across the North Sea as families. Agreed. But that the native British 'probably preferred them to elites'and just accepted Anglo-Saxon culture in preference to their own without reference to the cultural shock that must have ensued beggars belief. Did a collapse in late Roman population and civil war have an impact? What was it? Can you try to quantify the impact?

I did like her attempt to write a history without (much) reference to great people and I enjoyed her trying to show the history from the point of view of the people, but it was a strangely unsatisfactory book. It could be a very good book if some of these issues were addressed.
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14 of 27 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Lost in the bazaar, 28 Jan. 2011
This review is from: Britain after Rome: The Fall and Rise, 400 - 1070: Anglo-Saxon Britain: V.2 1 (Allen Lane History) (Hardcover)
Kandahar's bazaar has a wide variety of baubles from many parts of the world. One may learn much about Afghan tastes and fashion from shopping amongst its stalls. However, it is very doubtful if a visit there will give much insight into the war raging outside. Violence is rare even in wartime, as every combat soldier knows--and in times before the advent of high explosives it would be virtually invisible in the archaeological record. To learn about the Afghan war requires reading a newspaper, i.e. something called `a written source'.

It is thus rather strange to read in this work that Britons were neither "conquered nor colonized" but became Saxon largely by choice. The logic is impeccable. If archaeology--a discipline unsuited to discovering historical events like conquests--finds no events in post-Roman Britain, then no events like a conquest occurred during these two centuries. Thomas Charles-Evans and Peter Heather might disagree with this, but then they use written evidence.

Even if one were to accept this new `consumerist' view of post-Roman Britain, however, the book often betrays a kind of `double think'. We are triumphantly told that many of Britain's cities were abandoned after 410, while Gildas--who says precisely the same thing--cannot be trusted. We find that the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle's report of a Saxon king with a British name is preposterous--after we have been given a rosy picture of Saxons and Britons intermarrying in droves. Finally, we are told that the Saxons were illiterate, and therefore had no records before 600--when EVERY illiterate barbarian group that entered the empire enthusiastically employed literate Romans to administer their kingdoms--to include Attila the Hun.

This `double think' is no way the fault of the author. She is dutifully summarizing forty years of `rigorous' scholarship. Indeed, the blame cannot even be laid at the door of scholars who have invalidated virtually all written sources for the years 410-600. No, the fault is with critics who have failed to note the simple methodological flaw in all `rigorous' scholarship. When one rejects the early section of the ASC because it cannot demonstrate a `paper trail' back to the time of its composition, and INSTEAD argues that it was all fabricated from Saxon `sagas' that have mysteriously disappeared without a trace, one is in no sense using `rigor'. There is, quite simply, no `paper trail' to these Saxon sagas, and never will be. Anything resembling `rigor' requires us to reject these alleged sagas even more strenuously than the ASC itself. The fact that all written sources have been invalidated with precisely this kind of `evidence' means that objectively less likely alternatives have been raised to the level of axioms.

The truly sad part is that now virtually nothing certain can be said about post-Roman Britain. Scholars reject the ASC--with no coherent explanation as to why the early citations are dated the way they are. They routinely express skepticism about Gildas, our best source, while being unable to penetrate either his detailed historical narrative or his complex legal and Biblical argument against the five kings.

In the end it is all rather like being `skeptical' of quantum physics--because one cannot do the math.
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15 of 30 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Politically-correct socioarchaeology, 31 Jan. 2011
By 
E. L. Wisty "World Domination League" (Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Britain after Rome: The Fall and Rise, 400 - 1070: Anglo-Saxon Britain: V.2 1 (Allen Lane History) (Hardcover)
History has in recent times moved away from the deeds of kings and queens and dates, and more towards the history of the masses. To a large extent this can be considered a Good Thing, but in doing so one should be careful not to throw out the baby with the bathwater. This book however takes that egalitarian policy to an extreme, and the baby has been sent flying with a great heave-ho.

There is no narrative nor course of events here, rather just a 21st century liberal obsession with "class" and "status" and "identity", back-projected into the first millennium and being imposed upon the minds of people long dead and based purely on what is dug out of the ground. In short, it's politically-correct socioarchaeology. As an example of the ridiculousness of the nonsensical focus of this book, the mention of Caedmon is not to refer to his hymn, something of monumental importance as it is one of the earliest extant compositions in the English language, but instead to highlight the fact that he slept in a barn. Sod history, culture, language and literature, just as long as we understand the Us and Them contrast of later Anglo-Saxon society.

The volume as a whole is unbelievably sectioned up into neat and distinct centuries supposedly displaying different social trends in each one. So, Fleming incredibly sees the fifth century as almost a socialist paradise, as a peaceful and egalitarian period (albeit if it was a socialist paradise it was more of the North Korean variety with grinding poverty for all). Then, come the sixth century, suddenly a keeping up the the Joneses mentality begin to sow the seeds of social differentiation and the end of this apparent heaven on earth.

Publishing this text as as an isolated work is one thing (and I could have possibly given it 3 stars in such a scenario), but for this to be selected as part of the Penguin History of Britain series is just downright inexcusable and unforgivable. Shame on you Penguin. English history deserves better than this.
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