on 12 September 2000
Age of Tyrants is perhaps the best book currently available on the history of the Post-Roman Britons up to the year AD600. Looking at the remaining historical documents and the archaeology of the period, Chris Snyder builds a vivid picture of society and politics of this often misunderstood or misrepresented age. Avoiding the trap of falling into the great Arthurian debate ("did he or did he not exist?"), this book presents far newer research than many of the other available titles on this subject. Although maybe not as broad in scope as Leslie Alcock's Age of Arthur, which is the book that all others on post-Roman Britain should be judged by, Age of Tyrants concentrates on the Britons and does an excellent job of putting them into their historical context. I recommend this book to anyone interested in post-Roman Britain; the author has attempted to paint a realistic picture of life as a Briton between AD400-600, as opposed to making the few known facts fit his own theory about the 'true Arthur'.
on 24 November 2003
An interesting perspective on 5-7th Century 'British' activities, free of the common Anglo-Saxon "attitude" that sees this period as one of the establishment of A-S 'Kingdoms'. Instead the author looks at the creation of 'British' polities and demonstrates that their inherent instability and competiveness led to a form of mutually-assured destruction. The strife at Catterick remains central to the author's primary contention as noted here, and his analysis of Y Gododdin remains markedly at variance with current orthodoxies.
A very interesting an stimulating read for the lay specialist.
So much of what is written about the period 400-600AD focuses on whether or not King Arthur and his merry bad of knights ever lived in downtown Camelot. A lot of what is written is lovely and romantic and if it isn't true -- then it ought to be, as Winston Curchill once said.
It doesn't always help if one is trying to grope towards some kind of understanding of the process by which Late- and Post-Roman Britain ended its links with Rome, and how it came to be Anglo-Saxon England. Which is where Age of Tyrants comes in.
It is destined to beomce the standard work on this period, and rightly so.
All the old questions: Continuity or change, immigration or elite-takeover are still there for the asking.
Hopefully DNA analysis should eventually begin to help us sort some of them out, but what Snyder also does is point out the sometimes woeful state of cataloging and publication by archaeologists, not helped by lack of funds devoted to this. This means that we aren't always able to interrogate the data we do have properly - never mind go looking for more sites to dig up.