I am a big fan of the idea behind the Very Short Introduction series, and the way in which they provide information in an easily accessible manner. John Blair's "The Anglo-Saxon Age", while not the best example in the series, is certainly up there.
The book is set out in roughly chronological fashion, tracing the political development of England from the earliest settlements in c.450 through to that famous date of English history, 1066. Where it becomes appropriate, Blair takes the opportunity to bring in developments in society, religious culture, and trade and the economy - and it must be said that this structure works very well. The book contains plenty of illustrations to give flavour to the information. There is a list of suggested further reading at the back, which is commendable, although it could be more extensive considering the size of the subject concerned. Similarly, although there are maps to provide context, just two isn't quite enough to show the complex political and territorial changes.
To cover the entire Anglo-Saxon period - a whole six centuries - in just 90 pages (only 75 of which are the main text) was always going to be a tall order. Compare this with "The Crusades: A Very Short Introduction", which weighs in at 150 pages, a better length which allows for a more in-depth study of the subject matter. As a result "The Anglo-Saxon Age" remains only an overview of the subject, although a very respectable one. It is more easily digestible and certainly less daunting than one of the standard histories, such as "Anglo-Saxon England" by Frank Stenton (although that might be more useful for a student of medieval history). It might be worth also considering James Campbell's "The Anglo-Saxons", or Michael Wood's "In Search of the Dark Ages" as good places to start.
At the price this book is being offered by Amazon, it is nonetheless a good buy for the casual reader or for someone encountering the Anglo-Sazon period for the first time. Recommended.
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