Hill, Paul. The Anglo-Saxons at War, 800-1066.

Barnsley, Yorkshire: Pen & Sword, 2012.

Ever since doing my undergrad history degree in the 1960s, I’ve had a strong and continuing interest in both the early medieval period and in pre-gunpowder military history, so I was pleased to happen upon this well-written work by a noted expert in both subjects. Hill is a well-known lecturer and past curator of the Anglo-Saxon museum at Kingston-upon-Thames, where a number of the Saxon kings were crowned, and he’s produced several previous volumes on closely related topics.

Military archaeology in recent years has led to considerable revision of what we thought we knew about how the English dealt with external threats, from the Viking raids in the early 9th century right up to Hastings, and Hill does an excellent job of synthesizing the new evidence, comparing it to the ancient documentary sources, and drawing credible conclusions. His plan is basically chronological but he addresses narrower topics within each section, including the recruitment of a military force, the army’s structure and logistics, whether the English really had a cavalry force of meaningful size, tactics and strategy — both of the English and of their enemies — fortifications (including Alfred’s innovative and very successful “burgh” system), and, of course, the arms and armor in use on both sides. His style is lucid and not overly academic, which makes this a useful work for a wide range of readers. There are no footnotes but the selected bibliography is substantial, so you should end up with a list of additional titles to go and find. If this is a subject area of interest to you at all, then you should add this book to your “To Read” list.

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Published in: on 14 February 2018 at 2:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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