Looking forward and looking back

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My original intention was to run this as a website on the Anglo-Saxons rather than as a blog. I wanted to create an online reference guide to this period of English history. It’s only now that I realise what a spectacularly ambitious idea it was.

It’d be like trying to set up a 30-page website on England from the War of the Roses up to the Coronavirus pandemic. That’s a lot of history to cram into a small space!

I’m now running this site as a blog because I think the best I can do is share news of interesting books, articles, websites and tv documentaries. Through blogging I will be better able to focus on the many small details that make this period interesting.

What I’ve learnt so far

This morning I completed the book review page here. Out of all the books I mention, the ones I really love are:

    The Moral Economy of the Countryside: Anglo-Saxon to Anglo-Norman England by Rosamond Faith
    Building Anglo-Saxon England by John Blair
    Anglo-Saxon Art by Leslie Webster
    Complete Old English by Mark Atherton

All of the books I’ve read have given me something valuable, which is the beginnings of a picture of what it was like to live in Anglo-Saxon England.

I now understand that it was a time of transitions. British-Romano culture made way for pagan Anglo-Saxon culture. Anglo-Saxon society was slowly Christianised but kept looking back to its pagan roots and also to the Romans. The arrival of the Vikings was another transition.

Some of the books on the review page are about the surviving evidence on Anglo-Saxon paganism. The whole thing is a complex matter, but I have learnt two big things so far.

  • Trees were very important in pagan life and this continued in Christianity, with an emphasis on Jesus’s cross once having been a tree. (Sorry academics, I have phrased that rather crudely!)
  • Before putting any thought into it, I assumed that Anglo-Saxon paganism was about worshipping a pantheon of gods in much the same way that Christians worship one God. I have learnt that scholars see animism in some periods of Anglo-Saxon paganism.

My next blog posts will be book reviews in greater detail.

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