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on 3 May 2008
Hindley's book brings to the reader's attention the much-undervalued contribution the Anglo-Saxons invaders/settlers made to England. The period of Anglo-Saxon dominance is usually dismissed as something of a non-event in terms of the development of the nation, sandwiched between the great Roman & Norman invasions that are thought to have brought civilisation to the English and rescued them from the `dark ages.' However, by the time William the Conquerer came to the throne Hindley shows us that he had actually inherited rather than created the most efficient administrative structure in the whole of Europe.

Hindley tells us of the progress the Anglo-Saxons made in bringing about a concept of `Englishness' amongst all the initially separate kingdoms of England with the concept of 'Bretwalda,' a king who had supreme recognised authority over all the kingdoms of England. The setting up of a king's Navy by Alfred the Great and his preservation of the kingdom of Wessex which saved the Anglo-Saxon civilisation from oblivion at the hands of the Vikings. The contribution of the Anglo-Saxons to language, law, literature and bringing Christianity to Europe in the form of missionaries is impressive; this book highlights a wide range of achievements and as the previous reviewer states the book is anything but brief.
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on 13 July 2014
I have been intensely annoyed by this badly-written, poorly punctuated, stuffy book. It is very confusingly arranged in a way that makes it hard to get a sense of what life was really like in the period between the departure of the Romans and the Norman Conquest. It is dominated by church history, almost as much on the Continent as in Britain. It jumps confusingly back and forth between rulers.
I'm not sure whether I can bear to finish it. And I strongly recommend anybody wanting to learn about the Anglo-Saxons to get another book.
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on 5 September 2011
I find it difficult to give this book a negative review as I learned a great deal from it (that is why I gave the book three stars). Nonetheless, it was a hard enterprise; the layout and narrative was, at times, very difficult to follow. The great effort involved in making this book should not be overlooked all the same; summarising 600 years of vigorous history in Anglo Saxon Britain is utterly impossible and I do appreciate the author's toil in creating this excellent volume.

Yet, I would highlight, the style of writing seems directed towards himself in the way that it is hard to grasp and only a person really involved in the project will be able to understand without re-reading paragraphs. At times the book uses specialised language of relavant themes such as Church structure and hierarchy which could give readers a hard time researching terms in order to understand the text. Another important point is that the author mentions events and people as if the reader knew what he was talking about. From all this one could assume that Geoffrey's target audience is people who are truly engaged in the topic but, certainly, the title "A Brief History..." clearly suggests otherwise.

I acknowledge the fact that the topic is not straightforward when written authoritatively, however, more clarity and ease regarding the writing style would have been highly appreciated.

I genuinely enjoyed the book though I also got very tired, and at times frustrated, due to its dense nature.

To be completely honest I will avoid reading anything else from this author (even though he is an authority in the subject) as I think there are many highly reliable writers (in medieval history) who can certainly write having their readers in mind.
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VINE VOICEon 1 February 2009
In "A Brief History of the Anglo Saxons" Geoffrey Hindley provides a fascinating and extremely readable account of the formation of the English nation. The author manages to give a compelling account of how England, and Englishness developed in this confusing and complex time. He argues (convincingly in my view) that Anglo Saxon England was the most advanced nation in Europe with its dominance of the Church; it use of language and writing; and its effective structures of government.

This is essential reading if you are even remotley interested in how England was born. A great book. I am now going to read the author's "Brief History of the Magna Carta": I expect something equally fascinating.
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on 15 November 2008
Despite the book being about 400 pages long, it is still a very informative read. The book begins with Roman departure from Britain and ends with the aftermath of the Norman Conquest.

I enjoyed it and it certainly conveyed the central message that in fact a distinct "English culture" had developed by the time of the Conquest, indeed an awareness of an Englishness had perhaps been formed by the late 800s (something which the current government in Westminster to its shame is doing its best to undo).

The book contains many interesting anecdotes such as that the English were known for their overlike of alcohol even in 700AD! I also think that it was helpful to organise the chapters roughly by themes....i.e. church, law etc. I also thought it was a good idea to concentrate at the end on the effect of the Conquest rather than the Battle of Hastings as the battle is extensively written about in other books.

I did feel that the amount of the book (and there were fairly extensicve sections in the first half) dealing with the Anglo-Saxon church could have been reduced as these sections were fairly dry and really discussed the development of the Church in Europe more than of the Anglo-Saxons in Britain.

In conclusion, well worth reading but I think that it could be made more brief by being more focused on the subject at hand.
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This is a fantastic book telling the story where the English came from (Saxons=Germany and Angles=Denmark) and how we formed a country called England. The Anglo-saxon period laid the foundation of what we know today as England and Englishness. This is not a "Brief history" as it is 400pages long. It is well written and extremely informative and the only bad point is that it doesnt talk about the battles between the British/Welsh and the Germans/English and how we made the Welsh forigners in their own land, and the word 'Welsh' means foreigner in old English. (I highly recommend the novels by S. A. Swaffington) as his stories put everything into context and shows the wars between the Welsh and the English from the English perspective, see my reviews) And after centuries of fighting other Germanic tribes (the vikings) slowly a new kingdom started to emerge and we call that land, 'Land of the Angles' or England. It tells the story of the Vikings, the 1st English kings/Bretwaldas, Alfred the great, our language, law, literature such as 'Beowulf'and how we became Christian. And the battle of Hastings is reviewed in great detail.

This is a great book and probably the best book on the forgotten Germanic invasions of Britain that I highly recommend to all students or those that have a huge interest in early English history with a lot of time on their hands. To learn about our pagan beliefs before christianity i recommend "Gods and Myths of Northern Europe".
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on 18 February 2010
I recently finished wading through this after getting it at christmas, usually when i enjoy a book, esp a history book i'll be done in a few days, but this was really hard work. It's hard to pin down exactly what is wrong here, there is lots of information for such a short book, but i didn't really feel like i'd learnt much new. Perhaps it's the lack of maps (possibly due to a lack of clear evidence of locations for events), or the rather heavy-going chapters on the Church. I wanted to get some feel of what had happened to the Britons with the arrival of the Saxons, or the Saxons with the arrival of the Normans, but still haven't gained much understanding. The style of writing is very hard going, as well, long boring sentences with few breaks. On the other hand it is very well researched, and i enjoyed the chapter on Alfred the Great. Overall though, disappointing, and probably best avoided. I'm sure there must be a good introductory book on the Anglo-Saxons, but this isn't it.
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on 18 August 2015
Would agree with previous comments about the style of writing being a bit annoying. There is repetition due to the way the author themes his accounts though he always explains why he has to repeat and where certain topics will be covered in other chapters. The book is heavy going at times and you might be tempted to punch yourself in the face to distract yourself from the ennui. It is church heavy as most contemporary accounts or peri/post AS times were written by people in the church. The AS times were shaped by the church, and you cannot separate the two. In many senses this is a review or piecing together of the forementioned literature to make a history of the AS. There are of course references to archeological sources to suplement or back these up. A lot of the literature of this time is biased and there needs to be a weighing up of sources. Having read King of the North , are all AS history books written in this way ?
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on 22 March 2010
If you want an entertaining yet informative and intelligent introduction to the Anglo-Saxons I recommend avoiding this book altogether and buying "in search of the dark ages" by Micheal Wood.

Although this work is meant as a "brief history" is seemed to concentrate on a tiny handful of clerics who spend most of their time on the continent in the service of Frankish overlords who, to mind at least, had very little to do with the overall history of the Anglo Saxons. This section was informative but should really have been shorter and perhaps combined with the sections on Bede and the the ecclesiastic flowering of Northumbria.

After reading other "brief" and "introduction" books on the era, this one was surprisingly the least informative. Disappointing!
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on 5 August 2014
Brilliantly and concisely written, this informs and entertains equally. The author's deep love of his subject is transparent; it infected this reader at least! More please Mr Hindley.
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