Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Fall of Saxon England

The Fall of Saxon England
© 1975 Richard Humble
242 pages

History never rests. In the middle of the first millennium, the great tide of the Roman Empire began at last to recede. Its legions stationed in distant reaches of the realm, like those in Britain, were removed to better protect the heart of Rome from its many enemies.  The Britons were left to their own devices,  and into the vacuum left by Rome swept a multitude of European immigrants: Angles, Saxons, Picts, and Jutes.   Latin was an unknown tongue to them, but they came, they saw, and they conquered. Establishing their own kingdoms the tribes reigned supreme for a few centuries -- but then came the Vikings.  Beginning in the late 8th century, the Saxon lands became the object of attention of the Danes, and for two centuries invaders, raiders, and aggressive settlers would pummel the island. Isolated raids gave way to massive armies that broke several of the Saxon kingdoms, while the rest fell under the lead of one man -- Alfred the Great -- creating a patchy but unified English resistance. His brilliant successes would be undermined by less able successors, however, pitted against wilier foes.  The Fall of Saxon England is a blow-by-blow account of the Viking siege of England, ending with the invasion of William the Bastard.   Hailing from Normandy, itself a Viking-taken area of France, 1066 put an end to Saxon self-rule.  This storied military and political history of an England between Rome and Normandy has a sad end, but many of the actors are brilliant. Of special interest is a section on King Arthur, who the author speculates might have been inspired by Ambrosius Aurelianus.  Highly readable,  Humble delivers an education into how the great Saxon kingdoms, later earldoms, emerged and evolved until the Norman conquest.


  1. 1066 and all that - one of my favourite periods of 'English' history! There's a few books in my history list on this period and I've quite a few more waiting to be read including one I picked up just last week on the English resistance to William's successful invasion.

  2. What book is that on Saxon resistance? When I visited the library yesterday I was strongly tempted to pick up various titles on the pre-Normandy period specifically, but if I get started on that I'll never finish Dickens!

  3. Stephen asked: What book is that on Saxon resistance?

    It's 'The English Resistance - The Underground War Against the Normans' by Peter Rex (2004)

    From the blurb it looks really interesting. Personally I've always had a 'thing' about the resistance leader known as Hereward the Wake who fought against the Normans after the loss at Hastings and is a national hero somewhat in the mold of Boudica AKA Boadicea. Maybe I just loved the story my History teacher told us (at an impressionable age) who I strongly suspect was a Saxon sympathiser.... [grin]

  4. Looks like the author has done a full history on 1066, too. I'll have to look into him.

    Bernard Cornwell has made me a Saxon partisan myself -- not that I needed much help to side against a *French* invasion of England. (An invasion from France, at any rate...I don't know how much French culture the Normans shared.)

  5. Peter Rex is the author of 3-4 books based in that period I think. The Resistance book is the 2nd I have of him (neither read as yet).

    I think that the Norman's were much more ex-Viking than actual French.

    It's odd to think that even after 950 years the Norman Invasion still gets people emotionally involved in the events when you read about it. The authors I've read so far tend to be partisan to varying degrees, with is interesting in itself.

    Oh I just picked up another book on Joan of Arc - by Helen Castor.


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