Angles, Angels, and Conquerers, 400-1154

Angles, Angels, and Conquerers, 400-1154

Angles, Angels, and Conquerers, 400-1154

Angles, Angels, and Conquerers, 400-1154

Excerpt

There are already many books on the Anglo-Saxons. I have written still another because most of those available are written for students in England, and they assume a prior knowledge of English history far beyond that of the American college student. There is an interest in the Anglo-Saxons, and I see no reason why the peculiarity of the subject should frighten the curious away. I hope that the material presented in this introductory essay will make sense to readers who have little background in either English or medieval history. All I demand from such readers are curiosity, imagination, and attention to some basic facts of politics and society.

Many professionals who study and write about the past take some pains to avoid giving the impression that the political history of a people or nation is the most important aspect of its past. This reaction against battles and dates has become a new orthodoxy, and I subscribe to it. Accordingly, I have not attempted to write a political or constitutional history of the Anglo-Saxons or Anglo-Normans. It is my belief that the real interest of the beginning student (and of his teacher) should lie in the way a society was constructed--how it operated and how it changed. If my first chapter is somewhat prosaic, I take this occasion to apologize. Kings and battles were major contributing factors in a larger story. Though they do not represent the whole picture--for we are fortunate in having information about many other aspects of Anglo-Saxon life--I have begun this book with the story of invasion and conquest. Hopefully, such an opening will provide some intellectual security for the student who comes as a stranger to this far-off land. Though the institutions of the Anglo-Saxons, their beliefs and thoughts, their diet and social structure, and their women and children all interest me more than their kings, it is best to start with the easiest to grasp--that is, the leaders and deeds--and only then to allow the plot to thicken, as I do in subsequent chapters.

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