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In Search of the Dark Ages (1981)

by Michael Wood

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
8441018,459 (3.8)21
"This new edition of Michael Wood's groundbreaking first book explores the fascinating and mysterious centuries between the Romans and the Norman Conquest of 1066. In Search of the Dark Ages vividly conjures up some of the most famous names in British history, such as Queen Boadicea, leader of a terrible war of resistance against the Romans, and King Arthur, the 'once and future king', for whose riddle Wood proposes a new and surprising solution. Here too, warts and all, are the Saxon, Viking and Norman kings who laid the political foundations of England - Offa of Mercia, Alfred the Great, Athelstan, and William the Conqueror, whose victory at Hastings in 1066 marked the end of Anglo-Saxon England. Reflecting recent historical, textual and archaeological research, this revised and updated edition of Michael Wood's classic book overturns preconceptions of the Dark Ages as a shadowy and brutal era, showing them to be a richly exciting and formative period in the history of Britain. 'With In Search of the Dark Ages, Michael Wood wrote the book for history on TV.' The Times 'Michael Wood is the maker of some of the best TV documentaries ever made on history and archaeology.' Times Lite… (more)
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    ed.pendragon: Another accessible book by the enthusiastic Michael Wood, historian and presenter of many BBC TV programmes such as the ones on which these are based.
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Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
Well done information on England in the Dark Ages. He goes over what we know and what is only speculation. He explains why he puts more faith in some accounts over others. ( )
  nx74defiant | Aug 11, 2019 |
A good introduction to this period of Britain's history by the great Michael Wood, possibly the most accessible historian of the past couple of decades. The style is clear and concise and eminently readable, with chapters focusing on major figures of the times, such as Alfred the Great, Athelstan, Eric Bloodaxe and William the Conquerer. This was, I think, Woods' first major work for the BBC back in the 80's and as such it has dated, as recent archaeology has shed new light on the Dark Ages. But this is a great starting point and in a postscript at the end Woods' is generous enough to point people in the direction of more recent works in this area. Well worth a look. ( )
  David.Manns | Nov 28, 2016 |
I like Michael Wood's work. I'll go ahead and damn him with the praise that his summation of history and archaeology is "accessible". I have no doubt that he's passionate, thorough, articulate and competent (more damning praise). Still, I didn't enjoy this book. I couldn't wait to be done with it and if you quizzed me on its contents, I don't think I'd do very well. This likely has much to do with my familiarity with the subject matter. If the names Offa, Athelstan and Ethelred are already quite familiar to you, you'll make out rather well. If not, they may seem like little more than an anonymous procession of Anglo-Saxon kings who set about unifying England when not getting harassed by Danish vikings. Things come alive when Wood describes the battle of Hastings. It's gripping stuff, but was, for me, too little too late. My ignorance of pre-Norman English history is largely to blame for my dissatisfaction. Still, after 250 pages I remain fairly benighted.



So, not a great read. But Mr. Wood is not entirely at fault. ( )
1 vote BrianFannin | May 31, 2013 |
The best of several books I read recently on Middle Ages history, this focuses on one character in each chapter. Particularly interesting: Queen Bodicea and whether King Arthur was based on a real guy. (I'll save you some time: no.) It's based on a BBC miniseries by the same name, which makes it sound like it can't be very good, but surprise! It is. ( )
  AlCracka | Apr 2, 2013 |
30 years after this was published, the way it was written was a little disconcerting, with plenty of "we currently know" and "we suspect" and "at this time"s, pulling you back from enjoying the narrative too much. It made you realise how little is really known about this time - to the point that we dont even know if some of the people mentioned in this book actually existed.

Shortish book however, which gave some insight into a time that many laymen know little about (around 700 - 1000 AD), even if they think they do.
  nordie | Apr 17, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
He humanizes some of the most uninspiring or obscure figures in British history, including Ethelred the Unready; Eric Bloodaxe, ruler of Viking York; Anglo-Saxon imperialist king Offa, who staged a coup d'etat; and Alfred the Great, pioneer of town planning
added by John_Vaughan | editPublishers Weekly (Jun 29, 1987)
 
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Dedication
For my mother and father
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The modern British are a nation of immigrants.
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There was no capital of the Mercian empire. Offa was itinerant and only ruled by moving from place to place, constantly showing himself to friends and cowing his enemies.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"This new edition of Michael Wood's groundbreaking first book explores the fascinating and mysterious centuries between the Romans and the Norman Conquest of 1066. In Search of the Dark Ages vividly conjures up some of the most famous names in British history, such as Queen Boadicea, leader of a terrible war of resistance against the Romans, and King Arthur, the 'once and future king', for whose riddle Wood proposes a new and surprising solution. Here too, warts and all, are the Saxon, Viking and Norman kings who laid the political foundations of England - Offa of Mercia, Alfred the Great, Athelstan, and William the Conqueror, whose victory at Hastings in 1066 marked the end of Anglo-Saxon England. Reflecting recent historical, textual and archaeological research, this revised and updated edition of Michael Wood's classic book overturns preconceptions of the Dark Ages as a shadowy and brutal era, showing them to be a richly exciting and formative period in the history of Britain. 'With In Search of the Dark Ages, Michael Wood wrote the book for history on TV.' The Times 'Michael Wood is the maker of some of the best TV documentaries ever made on history and archaeology.' Times Lite

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