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The Domesday Quest: In search of the Roots of England Paperback – 2 Jun 2005

4.6 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: BBC Books (2 Jun. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0563522747
  • ISBN-13: 978-0563522744
  • Product Dimensions: 12.5 x 1.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 183,316 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a comparative review between the original 1986 edition, titled `Domesday: A Search for the Roots of England', and the 2005 `The Domesday Quest: In Search of the Roots of England'. In short, I would recommend anyone wanting to read this book to buy a copy of the original, and I explain why at the end. In the meantime, I comment on some of the book's contents.

In his revised 2005 preface, Wood informs us that the book was originally written for the nine-hundredth anniversary of Domesday, but, in a newly-devolved union, "now that almost two decades have passed ... it is plain that England and Great Britain have gone through more dramatic and far-reaching changes than could ever have been foreseen in the mid eighties." But this preface is virtually the only substantially-modified part of the new edition, and even here, using the word `substantial' is an overstatement.

In his introduction Wood states that, "The argument of this book is that some of the fundamental traits in English culture - for instance, marriage, property and inheritance customs, and what has been termed `English individualism' - are rooted earlier than Domesday." He argues that Domesday Book can assist in presenting "a view, inevitably selective, of the thousand-year period from the late Roman world ... to the fourteenth century ... a series of close-ups of certain landscapes, certain places and characteristic medieval societies." And this is what he then proceeds to do.

His known admiration for the Anglo-Saxon state is made manifest in part one's third and fourth sentences: "The Normans were relative newcomers to the European scene, descendants from pagan Viking adventurers who had settled in the Seine valley in 911.
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This book tackles a phenomenally difficult subject and does so with a verve so seldom found in a truly scholarly work such as this is. Wood marshals his information in such a way as to make his conclusions which to some scholars might seem a far-fetched utterly convincing. It is splendid to mark the way in which he uses all sources of information, archaeological as well as written iin order to back up his conclusions. In the process he paints a vivid almost photographic picture of living in England in the various periods with which he deals. What a contrast to the plodding dryasdust historian who sticks to the facts as he/she sees them and refuses to speculate. When Wood speculates, and he often does, he has has always a body of information on which to do it.
A splendid piece of work however you look at it.
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I am a great fan of Michael Woods who is a professional historian who can communicate to any intelligent reader viewer. "The Doomsday Quest." is a case in point. He introduces the genesis of William the Conqueror's record of land held by most of England's native population and their Norman conquerors. He goes on to describe it's impact on the country's history thereafter until recent times.
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Michael Wood is unique in his ability to bring the past to life. This analysis, offering explanation for the genetic markers for Viking immigration and pre Roman ancestry is compelling. A must read book!
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The book presents a useful introduction to the Anglo-Saxon period of Britain. However, developments in genetics, archaeology, linguistics and significantly stable isotope analysis on burials, are gradually questioning the traditional account of the early phase. Indeed the reported indigenous Britons may have been a pre Roman Germanic-speaking people residing alongside the Welsh, Gaels and Picts, faced with the 5th century AD incursions of Saxons, Angles and other groups of settlers described in the text. See for example http://fchknols.wordpress.com
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Michael Woods work ,as always, is most interesting and brings an individual and personal aspect to his subject. You can feel the poeple refered to are as real as your neighbours albeit in very different circumstances. An excellent read. Be glad you were not at the lower end of the Norman social scale.
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A marvellous revisiting of a crucial period in making us what we are today and whiich is all too little studied at A Level or degree standard.
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