F M Stenton – Anglo-Saxon England (and how to learn about it easily!)

A bit of a tome this one and probably only for the devoted Anglo Saxonite scholar. I have been reading this as part of my masters course and found some parts fascinating particularly the political chapters, the big problem is however that we know so little of the early Anglo-Saxon kings that it is impossible to develop their characters and they just become a list of strange names all blending into one.

I did learn a lot about the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes arriving in England and how England wasnt really England but the heptarchy of kingdoms (Northumbria, Wessex, Mercia, East Anglia, Essex, Kent, and Sussex) and how Britain at this time wasnt really Britain but was actually Wales.

F M (the M stands for Merry by the way) Stenton worked on three editions of this book and died whilst doing the third and I can understand why this might have been, it is huge and minutely detailed.

I am now doing a bit of work on ‘Was Alfred the Great really great?’ and one thing that enhanced my understanding of this book was the fantastic podcasts of David Crowther’s History of England. Don’t be put off by the design of the blog, he is very funny and cuts to the chase (normally in an episode of less than 10 minutes), so I would recommend him as a starting place if you want (or need) to know more.  I hope my lecturer never reads this review.




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3 responses to “F M Stenton – Anglo-Saxon England (and how to learn about it easily!)

  1. Janet Blackwell

    I thought the cover looked familiar. Found the book on my history shelf. It doesn’t get much easier on a 2nd reading (or could it be a 3rd?) but I think the Anglo-Saxons had a really rough deal when the Normans came along. Actually I love the names, usually with history I need to use the kings and queens as pegs to remind me of what’s going on at the time, but it’s difficult with Anglo-Saxon names and so many of them got killed when they were young so there’s more of them. No doubt historians would say this is a flippant view of history .

  2. Thanks for the nice comment…particularly the ‘very funny'[ bit of course which I will make sure I circulate to all my friends to confirm what I’ve been telling them for years.

    • Thanks for that David. I did find your podcasts really useful, especially as I kept forgetting who all the different Saxon rulers were, so listening to them at the same time as reading Stenton was great. They were definitely more entertaining than Stenton, his book is definitely lacking in the humour department! I used to go running and educated myself at the same time. Not sure how you have time to do all your podcasts I find it hard enough keeping up this blog.

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