30 of 41 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Britain After Rome: The Fall and Rise, 400 to 1070: Anglo-Saxon Britain Vol 2 (The Penguin History of Britain) (Paperback)
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. British history deserves better than this.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 5 Feb 2013 12:17:45 GMT
History "moved away from the deeds of kings and queens" many, many decades ago - do try to keep up. Given the shortage of documentary evidence for this period it would be difficult not to rely heavily on the material culture. The Penguin History of Britain does not seek to impose a uniform approach on its authors and anyway is in no sense an "official" let alone a "definitive" history. Consequently it is faintly absurd to regard the decision to publish this book as "downright inexcusable and unforgiveable" - at least outside North Korea!
Posted on 13 Feb 2013 05:29:26 GMT
Penguin these days has a definite Lefty bias - their "definitive" history of the United States of America has many of the same problems you reference with this series.
Posted on 22 Mar 2013 08:18:03 GMT
Medieval Lady says:
Thanks, reviews like yours helped me to decide not to buy this book. It would probably just make me extremely annoyed.
Posted on 10 Oct 2013 18:57:21 BDT
This review seems to import its own anachronistic world view from the contemporary era, if from an opposed stereotype. It seems to me it is not a basis for assessing the scholarly credentials of the author.
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