Thursday, March 13, 2014

Daily Life in Anglo-Saxon England

Daily Life in Anglo-Saxon England
© 2008 Sally Crawford
224 pages

            Who were the Anglo-Saxons? For a people conquered in 1066, their culture seems strangely dominant;  the land the Normans conquered remains England, not Greater Normandy, and Norman French is only an influence on the more native English, never having displaced the old language.   Daily Life in Anglo-Saxon England examines the earthy details of the Anglo-Saxons’ lives; the construction of their homes, the styles of dress, the culture they practiced at home and in community with one another. Separate chapters address both the material, like tools and towns, and cultural (religion and governance).  While some sections are based on physical artifacts, other evidence is documentary, taken from older histories like Bede’s, or inferred from miscellaneous documents.  The assertion that the Anglo-Saxons valued family care is drawn both from the presence of an adult skeleton who was born missing an arm and various descriptions of personalities in histories and graves as doting kinsmen and the like.   The book has a somewhat slow start (save for readers who are utterly fascinated by the difference between sunken-earth homes and free-standing  houses as archaeological sites), but on the whole is quite engaging.  The main point of the author’s writing is to rescue the Saxons from the perception that they were filthy peasants, knuckle-dragging their way around mud huts until the arrival of Christianity and the Norman French.  Her survey of their social life certainly illustrates how rich a life their culture possessed, and how sympathetic they can be even to modern readers.

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