The best books to understand Anglo-Saxon England

Who am I?

Tom Licence is Professor of Medieval History at the University of East Anglia and a former Fellow of Magdalene College, Cambridge. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. He teaches Anglo-Saxon History to undergraduates and postgraduates.


I wrote...

Edward the Confessor: Last of the Royal Blood

By Tom Licence,

Book cover of Edward the Confessor: Last of the Royal Blood

What is my book about?

Edward, in the past, was regarded as a weak king whose policies led to the Norman Conquest. This new biography dismantles the old argument and reassembles the evidence to show that Edward was a conscientious ruler, and that others were to blame for the conquest of 1066.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Britain After Rome: The Fall and Rise, 400 to 1070

Tom Licence Why did I love this book?

Britain After Rome is the best account of what it was like to live in Britain in the centuries before the Norman Conquest. Vividly recreating ordinary people’s lived experiences, Fleming mines the archaeological and material record to illuminate the non-political changes that transformed Roman Britain into the Britain of 1066. While plenty of books focus on the activities of kings and bishops in those centuries, Fleming’s engaging and erudite survey tells the history of everyone.

By Robin Fleming,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Britain After Rome as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The enormous hoard of beautiful gold military objects found in a field in Staffordshire has focused huge attention on the mysterious world of 7th and 8th century Britain. Clearly the product of a sophisticated, wealthy, highly militarized society, the objects beg innumerable questions about how we are to understand the people who once walked across the same landscape we inhabit, who are our ancestors and yet left such a slight record of their presence.

Britain after Rome brings together a wealth of research and imaginative engagement to bring us as close as we can hope to get to the tumultuous…


Book cover of The Anglo-Saxon World

Tom Licence Why did I love this book?

The Anglo-Saxon World is the best introductory survey for students of Anglo-Saxon history. Experts in their field, the authors flesh out the traditional narrative account with insights from archaeology, numismatics, and DNA analysis. The book is splendidly enriched by almost three hundred colour photographs, tables, maps, and diagrams, while box-out sections in each chapter delve into interesting topics or debates. The authors also outline the historiography for readers who want to know how scholarly understanding of the period has developed.

By Nicholas J. Higham, M.J. Ryan, Nicholas J. Higham

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Anglo-Saxon World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Anglo-Saxon period, stretching from the fifth to the late eleventh century, begins with the Roman retreat from the Western world and ends with the Norman takeover of England. Between these epochal events, many of the contours and patterns of English life that would endure for the next millennium were shaped. In this authoritative work, N. J. Higham and M. J. Ryan reexamine Anglo-Saxon England in the light of new research in disciplines as wide ranging as historical genetics, paleobotany, archaeology, literary studies, art history, and numismatics. The result is the definitive introduction to the Anglo-Saxon world, enhanced with a…


Book cover of Building Anglo-Saxon England

Tom Licence Why did I love this book?

Blair approaches the history of these centuries by dividing mainland Britain into environmental and cultural zones. In doing so, he highlights the role of geography, geology, infrastructure, trade and even rainfall in determining trends of settlement, social cohesion, and material culture. Blair examines how landscapes were created – the evolution of villages, towns, and religious complexes – while exploring the relationship between centres of power and the satellite hubs around them. The book is richly served by colour images, artists’ reconstructions, maps, and diagrams. Comparisons to Scandinavia (where early timber structures survive) help bring the houses and surroundings of the Anglo-Saxons vividly to life.

By John Blair,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Building Anglo-Saxon England as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize
A radical rethinking of the Anglo-Saxon world that draws on the latest archaeological discoveries

This beautifully illustrated book draws on the latest archaeological discoveries to present a radical reappraisal of the Anglo-Saxon built environment and its inhabitants. John Blair, one of the world's leading experts on this transformative era in England's early history, explains the origins of towns, manor houses, and castles in a completely new way, and sheds new light on the important functions of buildings and settlements in shaping people's lives during the age of the Venerable Bede and King Alfred.

Building…


Book cover of Kingship and Government in Pre-Conquest England C.500-1066

Tom Licence Why did I love this book?

For readers who want an expert introduction to the origins of kingship, power, and government in the centuries before the Norman Conquest, Ann’s Kingship and Government is the place to go. A great strength of her book is that it explains key concepts, structures, and terminology as the need arises, and in a way that clarifies the story that is being told. This equips the reader to explore what can otherwise seem like a strange and incomprehensible world. If you want the nuts and bolts of how Anglo-Saxon society and its power structures operated, this is the book for you. It is also one of the best political surveys of the emergence of England in those centuries.

By Ann Williams,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Kingship and Government in Pre-Conquest England C.500-1066 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book is a study of the exercise of royal authority before the Norman Conquest. Six centuries separate the 'adventus Saxonum' from the battle of Hastings: during those long years, the English kings changed from warlords, who exacted submission by force, into law-givers to whom obedience was a moral duty. In the process, they created many of the administrative institutes which continued to serve their successors. They also created England: the united kingdom of the English people.


Book cover of Queen Emma and Queen Edith: Queenship and Women's Power in Eleventh-Century England

Tom Licence Why did I love this book?

Men tend to dominate accounts of Anglo-Saxon history, which focus on kings, bishops, and warlords and men who wrote about them. Stafford’s important joint biography, interweaving the lives of Queen Emma and Queen Edith, redresses the balance by rewriting that history through the lens of women’s experiences. Stafford compares Emma and Edith in the familial, domestic, and political spheres, throwing into sharp relief the power dynamics of queenship through six desperate decades of conquest and disputed succession. In this fascinating setting, queens emerge as the survivors, while the men frequently succumb to violent or premature ends.

By Pauline Stafford,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Queen Emma and Queen Edith as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Through detailed study of these women the author demonstrates the integral place of royal queens in the rule of the English kingdom and in the process of unification by which England was made.


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By Alan Pearce, Beverley Pearce,

Book cover of Coma and Near-Death Experience: The Beautiful, Disturbing, and Dangerous World of the Unconscious

Alan Pearce Author Of Coma and Near-Death Experience: The Beautiful, Disturbing, and Dangerous World of the Unconscious

New book alert!

Who am I?

As a journalist, I'm driven to find stories that have not been covered before and to make clear the incomprehensible. I like people, and I like asking questions. I've covered wars and disasters, and on any given day, I could expect to see people at their very worst and at their very best. With my book about comas, I've met some of the finest people of my career, doctors, nurses, and other clinicians who are fighting the system, and coma survivors who are simply fighting to get through each and every day. This is the story I am now driven to tell.

Alan's book list on consciousness that demonstrates there is more to life than we know

What is my book about?

What happens when a person is placed into a medically-induced coma?

The brain might be flatlining, but the mind is far from inactive: experiencing alternate lives rich in every detail that spans decades, visiting realms of stunning and majestic beauty, or plummeting to the very depths of Hell while defying all medical and scientific understanding.

Everything you think you know about coma is wrong. Doctors call it 'sleeping' when in reality, many are trapped on a hamster wheel of brain-damaging, nightmarish events that scar those that survive for life. Others are left to question whether they touched levels of existence previously confined to fantasy or whether they teetered on the brink of this life and the next. Coma is not what you think.

Coma and Near-Death Experience: The Beautiful, Disturbing, and Dangerous World of the Unconscious

By Alan Pearce, Beverley Pearce,

What is this book about?

Explores the extraordinary states of expanded consciousness that arise during comas, both positive and negative

Every day around the world, thousands of people are placed in medically-induced comas. For some coma survivors, the experience is an utter blank. Others lay paralyzed, aware of everything around them but unable to move, speak, or even blink. Many experience alternate lives spanning decades, lives they grieve once awakened. Some encounter ultra-vivid nightmares, while others undergo a deep, spiritual oneness with the Universe or say they have glimpsed the Afterlife.

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Interested in Anglo Saxons, the Middle Ages, and London?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Anglo Saxons, the Middle Ages, and London.

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