Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Francis Pryor - Britain in the Middle Ages, An Archaeological History

Francis Pryor makes it clear in his introduction that this isn't intended to be either a definitive academic history, nor a social history of life in the British Isles 1000 years ago. Rather its a narrative history, which tries to bring out the general trends of the period following the departure of the Roman legions and the approximate end of the Middle Ages with the dissolution of the monastries.

Pryor's emphasis on archaeology (and indeed his breathtaking openness towards public and amateur involvement) leads him to view the period of history, very differently to those who perceive this era of time as the Dark Ages.

The most fascinating parts of the book are when Pryor looks at the buildings and other artifacts of the time. We discover a world that is constantly developing, growing and occasionally moving backwards. Foreign invaders - the Vikings and the Normans for instance bring their own changes and traditions, though, in the case of the Vikings, they are far from the destructive warriors, clad in horned helmets so beloved of Hollywood.

Pryor says that this isn't a social history. Though neither is this a history of kings and other great men. In that sense, it is also a history of change and social transformation - well worth reading if you are bored of Kings and Queens.

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Francis Pryor - Britain BC

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