Offa and the Mercian Wars: The Rise and Fall of the First Great English Kingdom Hardcover – 17 May 2012
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Top Customer Reviews
The author discusses the deployment of the small elite armies, leaving the peasants to provide the food from their farms.
We progress through Penda and Oswald/Oswiu and doubts about Mercia even existing as a kingdom during this period.
Half way through the book we get to the Sutton Hoo Treasures and the Staffordshire Hoard (which the author provides little evidence of actually having seen)and we begin to wonder where Offa and the Mercian Wars have got to.
The actual text of the book is 186 pages long. Page 88 marks Penda's successors and the rise of Offa, Page 149 Offa's successors and the Danish Invasions. Where was Offa? What of the Mercian Armies? Has this guy been to Seckington, Tamworth, Hereford or even Mercia?
Somewhere in between, Offa has got to subdue the majority of the surrounding English Kingdoms, form diplomatic and trading ties with Charlemagne and dig huge ditches around Tamworth and along the Welsh border, write a good number of charters and travel the country collecting his revenue to pay for it all.
In Mercia there ruled a mighty king who struck all around him with terror.
That alone should make him an interesting character.
The author has interestingly covered the post Offa period in more detail, especially the Danish "Great Army" campaigns, offering a few insights into the activities of he Mercians during what has largely been recorded in history, as the sole efforts of the army of Wessex.
Did the Northern Mercians (geographically close to the Nortumbrians)conspire with the Danish mercenaries, to become the central powerhouse of Britain.Read more ›
My problems with this book are not with the style but rather with the content. Getting upset about inaccuracies in a book about events from over a thousand years ago makes me sound very geeky... and I have to admit I am guilty as charged. However, beyond my geeky outrage at minor mistakes and over sights, I also feel a more justified sadness that an author who should be capable of some novel insights has satisfied himself with paraphrasing other authors with little sign that he truly understands the points they were trying to make.
Early on in his book Chris Peers makes a very convincing case that the history of Mercia, in particular the history of its wars cannot be separated from its geography. It is a convincing argument and was a convincing argument the first time I read it. In particular (as Mr Peers points out) the rivers determine the direction of campaigns. You would imagine that anyone making such a point would at the very least buy a map and find out how and where the important rivers flowed.Read more ›
The introduction presents the main sources for the period, the chronicles and a few charters, but also the archaeological findings. This presentation is short, to the point, but nevertheless quite comprehensive with the main points being made without any of the endless discussions on the reliability of the respective sources (or lack of it) that I had feared and which can be somewhat tedious for a general reader.
The other three contextual chapters deal, respectively, with the geography and the land, presenting what were the strategic issues that the Kings of Mercia had to deal with, the coming of the Angles and the Kingdoms and armies that ruled over the central part of what is now England. The author embraces the current and modern thesis that the "real" Angles - that is does that had come from overseas and their descendants - were probably a minority among the total population (some 10-15%), although they constituted the upper class. This thesis, which has become common among authors and historians working on the Dark Ages across what made up the old Provinces of the Western Roman Empire, is more likely than what we used to be taught at school about the huge hordes of Barbarians that sweep over the borders as tidal waves.
The fourth chapter examines the reigns of the first Kings of Mercia, the ones who came to progressively dominate a couple of dozen of other kingdoms and, at least to some extent, integrate them into the kingdom.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a book about an age that not so much is known about so it tends to pad the Offa account out with better documented historical accounts that come after him. Read morePublished 5 days ago by John Harbord
This is another in the great Pen and Swords historical series, publications which focus largely on military, as well as ancient history. Read morePublished 12 days ago by Keen Reader
Recommend this book to anyone interested in these often overlooked Kings of England. A real page turner unable to put downPublished 9 months ago by 360
Very interesting and well written book that gives a fresh and intriguing view of the fascinating age of anglo-saxon wars and England kingdom genesis.Published 16 months ago by Leo
Very interesting and well written. I hadn't realised that so much was known about the history of the dark ages. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Amazon Customer
Very disappointed, This book written more like a reference book with details of who what where things happened. Read morePublished 19 months ago by dee43
I was surprised by the amount of information available about what has been called the "dark ages". Read morePublished on 3 Sept. 2013 by Wendy Pearson
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