Book Reviews
Table of Contents

General History

The Age of Athelstan: Britain's Forgotten History by Paul Hill

The quartet of Alfred, Edward, Aethelflaed and Athelstan arguably played a massive role in shaping Mediaeval England, but their achievements are unfortunately not widely recognised. This is one book which shows just how much happened in the first half of the 10th Century, covering the internal politics of our island and its dealings with other European powers. Hill provides a scholarly account of Athelstan's reign, which saw the finalisation of the union of Wessex and Mercia and the recapture of much land from the Danes, plus events leading up to and following it. The book also includes an interesting discussion of evidence for supposed sites for the Battle of Brunanburh. (Tempus. ISBN: 978-0752425665)

Alfred, Warrior King by John Peddie

A military history book, about Alfred's wars. Lots of useful information on which battles were fought where, and written by an ex-soldier who occassionally brings his personal experiences in to great effect. However it can be a bit dry in places, and has a tendency to obsess about military supply lines. (Sutton Publishing. ISBN: 0-7509-3796-3)

Anglo-Saxon Oxfordshire by J Blair

John Blair offers a very interesting coverage of our local history. You can learn for instance which streets in Oxford have Anglo-Saxon origins, and also discover the location of the Viking burial site just yards from the Wychwood battle practice site. (Alan Sutton Publishing. ISBN: 978-0750917506)

The Anglo-Saxons by J Campbell, E John & P Wormald (eds)

This book presents a traditional introduction to history and culture with many illustrations and plates. (Penguin. ISBN: 978-0140143959)

Arthur and the Anglo-Saxon Wars by D Nicolle & A McBride Osprey Men-at-Arms

A book about Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, Picts, Scots, Welsh, etc. (Osprey Publishing. ISBN: 978-0850455489

Arthur's Britain by L Alcock

This book may be outdated, but it still offers an interesting look at the very earliest phases of our period. (Penguin)

The Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Anglo-Saxon England edited by Michael Lapidge and others

This is an absolute mine of information on important events, people and places from c. 450 - 1066 AD.
(Blackwell. ISBN: 978-0631224921)

A Brief History of the Anglo-Saxons by Geoffrey Hindley

This is a very readable book that covers a large amount of material: the politics, state, church, warfare and society of Anglo-Saxon England are discussed in a lively and interesting style. In addition, the book is well referenced and includes suggestions for further reading. If you buy one book on Anglo-Saxon England, make it this one. (Robinson. ISBN: 978-1845291617)

The Cambridge Cultural History of Britain 1: Early Britain by B Ford

This book covers art, literature, music and more. (Cambridge University Press)

Cultural Atlas of the Viking World by CE Batey & other authors

A good introduction to history and culture, which is well illustrated. (Facts on File. ISBN: 978-0816030040)

Emma, The Twice-Crowned Queen: England In The Viking Age by Isabella Strachan

Emma of Normandy married Aethelraed Unraede and, later, King Cnut. It's really not the biography it purports to be, more an encyclopedia of events that happened during Emma's lifetime.

The Forgotten Battle of 1066: Fulford by Charles Jones

Not only does this book feature several photos of some damn sexy warriors, but it also provides a thorough description of the battle in question (final score: Edwin & Morcar 1, Harald Hardrada 0) and an account of archaeological work at the battlefield. (Hardback: Tempus. ISBN: 978-0752438107. Paperback: NPI. ISBN: 978-0752438108).

Picts, Gaels and Scots by Sally Foster

An excellent introduction to history, culture, society and economy with an interesting discussion and many illustrations. (Batsford. ISBN: 978-0713488746)

Unification and Conquest: a Political and Social History of England in the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries by Pauline Stafford

A serious history book by a respected historian. (Hodder Arnold. ISBN: 978-0713165326)

The Year 1000 - What Life Was Like at the Turn of the First Millennium by R Lacey & D Danziger

An easy-to-read portrait of what life was like at the turn of the first millennium, based on the Julius work calendar. This is probably the book to read first if you want to know how people in the late Anglo-Saxon period spent their time. (Black Bay Books. ISBN: 978-0316511575)

Costume & Craft

Anglo-Saxon Art: a New Perspective by C R Dodwell

Analysis of the artistic taste and achievements of the upper classes of Anglo-Saxon society (Cornell University Press. ISBN: 978-0801493003)

Anglo-Saxon Crafts by Kevin Leahy

This is an amazing resource for those interested in making artefacts for use in living history and re-enactment. The text is clear and includes sources, and is accompanied by photos and very useful diagrams. It covers Anglo-Saxon methods of working with bone, wood, leather, cloth, precious metals and almost everything else you can think of. It also includes descriptions of the tools used. (Tempus. ISBN: 978-0752429045)

Anglo-Scandinavian Ironwork from 16-22 Coppergate by P Ottoway

A comprehensive catalogue of tools, pots, knives, keys, needles, belt fitings, hooks, tags, spurs, etc. Very useful for ideas for costume accessories. (York Archaeological Trust. ISBN: 187241429X)

Cloth and Clothing in Early Anglo-Saxon England, AD 450-700 by Penelope Walton Rogers

Like Owen-Crocker, this book gives great details on Anglo-Saxon clothing. Although it is aimed at an earlier time period than ours, most of the information (especially for male kit) is still very useful. Also, this book is particularly strong on material remains rather than pictures from manuscripts, with lots of discussion of finds in cemeteries and about bling. It's also strong at talking about textile production and the role of clothing in society. A good book, but I'd recommend reading Owen-Crocker and Ewing first as they're more in our period. (Council for British Archaeology. ISBN: 978-1-902771-54-0)

Dress in Anglo-Saxon England by Gale R. Owen-Crocker

One of the first major landmarks in Anglo-Saxon clothing studies. Owen-Crocker covers the entire time period, from the fifth to the eleventh century, and provides lots of details on how both female and male costume evolved over time. A broad inter-disciplinary book, covering art history, archaeology and language studies. Very readable. Apparently a second edition was made in 2004. (Manchester University Press. ISBN: 0-7190-1818-8)

Dye Plants and Dyeing By John Cannon & Margaret Cannon

Practical notes for craft dyers. Note that not all plants and techniques here were available to Anglo-Saxons. (Timber Press. ISBN: 978-0881925722)

Viking Clothing by Thor Ewing

The definitive guide to Viking clothing. If you want to do anything fancy with your kit, or you want to examine the evidence for the selection of kit we recommend, read this book. Contains details of all the key finds, and lots of pictures. It also has a chapter examining all the skills involved in cloth making (weaving, dyeing, tablet weaving, etc) and a chapter examining social aspects of clothing. Really, really useful. (Tempus Publishing. ISBN: 0-7524-3587-6)

Weapons & Fighting

The Anglian Helmet from 16-22 Coppergate by D Tweddle

An exhaustive and excellent technical and stylistic analysis of this helmet. Vital reading for would-be armourers. (York Archaeological Trust. ISBN: 1872414192)

Anglo-Saxon Thegn AD 449–1066 by Mark Harrison Osprey Warrior 5

A nice clear overview of arms and armour, and the role of the thegn, in Dark Age England. Like most of the Osprey books, its chief strength is the number and quality of the illustrations showing various seaxes, swords, spears, shields, helmets etc. (Osprey. ISBN: ISBN: 9781855323490)

Early Anglo-Saxon Shields by T Dickinson & H Härke

A comprehensive review of evidence for design, construction and use of shields, but little material from after the seventh century. (Archaeologia vol. 110)

The English Warrior, From Earliest Times Till 1066 by Stephen Pollington

This is a great book, combining primary sources with archaeological finds to present a complete guide to the Anglo-Saxon warrior class. It's a total how-to guide on being a thane. The information is presented in three sections. First comes a look at the warrior, their place in society, their culture, their rituals. It's all very DAS. Then there's a look at weapons and armour, with typologies and linguistic discussion and lots of useful information for any combat re-enactors. The third section is a bit brief, but covers the basics of warfare. Finally, a bunch of translations (the battles of Brunanburh, Finnsburh and Maldon) are shoved in the rear of the book, just for completeness. Woo! (Hardback 2nd edition: Anglo-Saxon Books. ISBN: 1-898281-42-4)

Medieval Sword and Shield. The Combat System of Royal Armouries MS I.33 by Paul Wagner & Stephen Hand

A very shiny book. Royal Armouries MS I.33 is the oldest surviving European guide to fighting (late 13th/early 14th century). It's a step-by-step guide to fighting with sword and buckler, with lots of slightly weird illustrations. These authors have analysed the original manuscript, tested and refined the system in it, and in this book publish their results: a modern version of the manuscript. LOADS of photos, showing all the moves step-by-step. (Chivalry Bookshelf. ISBN: 1-891448-43-9)

The Sword in Anglo-Saxon England: its Archaeology and Literature by H R E Davidson & E Oakeshott

A very good account of the design and construction of swords and their use and appearance in literature. (University of Rochester Press. (University of Rochester Press. ISBN: 978-0851153551)

Viking Hersir 793-1066 AD by Mark Harrison Osprey Warrior 3

A great little book, filled with wonderful illustrations and a great little introduction to the Viking warrrior class and combat in our period. Includes weapon typologies and lots of pictures of weapons. (Osprey Publishing. ISBN: 1-85532-318-4)

Viking Weapons and Combat Techniques by William R Short

"A history of the arms, armor, and individual fighting strategies of medieval Europe's most feared warriors." Review to follow when we get hold of a copy, but this should give you an idea of what to expect. (Westholme Publishing. ISBN: 1-59416-076-7)

Weapons and Warfare in Anglo-Saxon England by SC Hawkes

An interesting series of papers presented to a conference in Oxford. (Oxford Committee for Archaeology/Oxbow Books. ISBN: 9780947816216)


Popular Religion in Late Anglo-Saxon England: Elf Charms in Context by KL Jolly

A very excellent book analysing the various influences on the beliefs of the ordinary Anglo-Saxon, as shown by the charms and remedies of the tenth and eleventh century leechbooks. (University of North Carolina Press. ISBN: 978-0807845653)

The Way of Wyrd by Brian Bates

A very good novel based on academic research into Anglo-Saxon paganism. However, it is speculative and fills all gaps in the Anglo-Saxon material with eastern mysticism. (Hay House Inc. ISBN: 978-1401904777)


Anglo-Saxon Food & Drink by Ann Hagen

Detailed analyses of culinary habits of Anglo-Saxons. Ideal pre-feast reading, although some work is needed to extract recipes from the details. (Anglo Saxon Books. ISBN: 978-1898281412)

Anglo-Saxon Medicine by M L Cameron

This is an absolutely fascinating book about Anglo-Saxon medical practices and how they relates to traditional North European and Classical medical traditions. While the author seems to repeat himself a lot at various points in the book, he gets a large amount of information across. There's lots of quoting from original Englisc sources, so if you want to start prescribing cures to members of the public at shows, you'll have a nice selection to choose from.
(Cambridge Studies in Anglo-Saxon England no. 7, CUP. ISBN: 978-0521031226) (Available as a free ebook here.)

Anglo-Saxon Sailing Ships by E & J Gifford

Published by the Sutton Hoo Society — Short booklet detailing sea trials of replicas of Anglo-Saxon ships, including the performance of the Sutton Hoo ship under sail. Highly recommended for sailors.

Beowulf by Julian Glover & Sheila Mackie

A good abridged verse version with excellent modern illustrations (Sutton Publishing. ISBN: 978-0750943116)

The Exeter Book Riddles by Kevin Crossley-Holland

Translations of eleventh century Anglo-Saxon riddles giving a wonderful insight into Anglo-Saxon wit and humour. (Penguin Classics. ISBN: 978-0140433678)

Leechcraft: Early English Charms, Plantlore and Healing by Stephen Pollington

This an absolutely wonderful, comprehensive reference for Anglo-Saxon medical remedies and charms. Like all Stephen Pollington's books, it's well-written and encyclopaedic. To complement his own prose, he's provided full original texts and translations of Bald's Leechbook, the Lacnunga Manuscript and The Old English Herbarium, as well as an alphabetical list of plants and medical materials that's been fully cross-referenced with the source material. (Anglo-Saxon Books. ISBN: 978-1898281474).

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