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4.5 out of 5 stars
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4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 20 September 2017
Excellent Book on early English History which I am interested in
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on 12 January 2015
Read this, be inspired that you are but a small part of the historical walk of Christian life throughout the centuries.

Has one of my favorite quotes in all Christendom.

read the book it is well worth it

Your Majesty, when we compare the present life of man on earth with that time of which we have no knowledge, it seems to me like the swift flight of a single sparrow through the banqueting-hall where you are sitting at dinner on a winter’s day with your thegns and counsellors. In the midst there is a comforting fire to warm the hall; outside the storms of winter rain or snow are raging. This sparrow flies swiftly in through one door of the hall, and out through another. While he is inside, he is safe from the winter storms; but after a moment of comfort, he vanishes from sight into the wintry world from which he came. Even so, man appears on earth for a little while; but of what went before this life or of what follows, we know nothing. Therefore, if this new teaching has brought any more certain knowledge, it seems only right that we should follow it.”
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on 25 October 2014
This is certainly an important book, for all the reasons described elsewhere, but is it a good read? Well... it’s quite dry in places, particularly the transcripts of letters to and from the Pope.

It covers the period from Julius Caesars’s invasion of Britain in 60 BC (sic) to Bede’s own time of 731 AD. However, the first 650 of these years are covered briskly, and somewhat disjointedly, in the first 37 pages. The bulk of the book recounts the 135 years immediately prior to its writing.

Secular affairs are covered, particularly those concerning Northumbria. Kings come and go and the kingdoms of Britain squabble amongst themselves. Generally, though, these events form a kind of weather, against which the central drama takes place: the rise of the English Church. Augustine arrives from Rome in 587 AD, after which bishops and monks spread across the land, converting Kings, founding monasteries, and pulling the established Irish clergy into line regarding matters of doctrine that seem entirely trivial today. Some of the tales Bede tells have since become famous; a few are genuinely affecting, such as that of White Hewald and Black Hewald, martyrs for the faith.

There are probably modern accounts of this period that are more comprehensive and more objective. What you get from this contemporary account is a greater immersion in the character of the age. You’re fully exposed to Bede’s enthusiastic pedantry regarding the date of Easter, for example, and the general passion for miracles and relics (Bede describes how soil from the graves of saints is consumed with a glass of water, like antibiotics). There is also a certain irrational thrill from reading such a key text in English history, one that was written before the Vikings arrived. It’s a very subtle thrill, though, and you’ll need some patience.
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on 26 July 2015
''Nevertheless, its essential quality carries it into the small class of books which transcend all but the most fundamental conditions of time and place. Bede was a monk to whom the miraculous seemed a manifestation of the divine government of the world. But his critical faculty was always alert; his narrative never degenerates into a tissue of ill-attested wonders, and in regard to all the normal substance of history his work can be judged as strictly as any historical writing of any time. His preface, in which he acknowledges the help received from learned friends, reads like an introduction to a modern work of scholarship. But the quality which makes his work great is not his scholarship, nor the faculty of narrative which he shared with many contemporaries, but his astonishing power of co-ordinating the fragments of information which came to him through tradition, the relation of friends, or documentary evidence.
In an age when little was attempted beyond the registration of fact, he had reached the conception of history. It is in virtue of this conception that the 'Historia Ecclesiastica' still lives after twelve hundred years.''
Sir Frank Stenton, author of 'Anglo-Saxon England'
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on 5 January 2011
I was lucky enough to study a module on Anglo-Saxon history at University and this was on the reading list. Bede is a direct and approachable writer who has an understated wisdom both in his treatment of the individual iconic figures of his age and for the wider swing of history. He seems himself enthused by his chosen subject and is quietly spell-binding. Of course, you do have to be a little savvy to peer between the lines- was for instance the advent of Christianity accepted with such wild enthusiasm as he claims, and did the novice receive his hymn from the almighty as he said? But Bede includes so much detail- his book is, to use his own expression: 'full of days'that we need not feel he is ever glibly leading us astray. He is telling us stories in order to make sense of his world. And in doing so gives us such a glimpse into how things were, in all their vigour and anarchy and stoicism. This is one book that is never going on the charity shop pile.
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on 16 April 2007
It's hard to overestimate the importance of the Venerable Bede and his Historia Ecclesiastica. He was the first to catalogue and write down the early English history, and in doing it well he set a real standard to live up to for future historians.

Although written in 731, Bede's history (at least in this version) is an easy read, moving from Roman times to Bede's own day, taking in the squabbles of the several English kingdoms, the missions of Augustine in the south and the Celtic saints in the north. It's a fascinating period of history, not least because history courses often seem to start with 1066 and take it from there.
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on 4 May 2017
Excellent
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on 28 September 2016
very interesting and educational
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on 26 March 2010
This book is of interest to those , like myself, who wish to learn about how the foundations of our great nation were established before the Norman Conquest and possibly to Anglicans who wish to learn about the origins of their Church. Bede's piety and devotion to his religion shine through. However, what makes the book uputdownable by myself is the occasional anecdote illuminating the struggles and adversity faced by the earliest English folk such as the suicide pacts made in Sussex in the face of dearth.This is a fascinating read.
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on 28 February 2010
We are so lucky to have this book. Lucky that a man of Bede's remarkable ability should undertake such a detailed history in an era when the gathering of information was a phenomenally painstaking task, lucky that Bede writes in such a readable style, and lucky that a book written 1300 years ago should have survived through the ages. Without Bede we would be hugely the poorer in our knowledge and understanding of the British Isles during the major part of the first millennium. This is not a conventional history; it is very much a history of the growth of Christianity and the Church in England (and the rest of the British Isles) during the period, written from a priest's perspective. However, in the setting out of Bede's account of the English church we also get a fair slice of more general history of the times, as well as a feel for its culture. I am generalising here a bit, but early books have a tendency to feel like they have been written by a committee (which or course may be true!) and with no sense of the author's own views. That is absolutely not the case with this book. Bede's personality and views shine through on virtually every page - he is writing the ecclesiastical history from his viewpoint and his personal interests (such as the dating of Easter - disputed for many years) shine through. This makes the book all the more interesting to read. As mentioned above, Bede's is not a difficult style of writing to read and appreciate, but it is not a book to be torn through like a novel (in the way that, for example, Churchill's History Of The English Speaking People's can). The reason for this is that Bede includes a huge amount of detail about individuals' names (and dates) but, as many of the names are similar, and as characters appear and disappear very quickly, it can be difficult to keep track of the narrative thread at times and to remember who is being talked about and to whom they are related either by blood or events. My advice is not to try too hard to connect everything up, but to enjoy the overall flow of the book and to concentrate on the facts and details of each of the many short chapters, treating them as vignettes that make up a greater whole. Finishing the book I felt tremendous sense of satisfaction at being lucky enough to be able to glimpse into the past through the eyes of a such a remarkable man as Bede.
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