Marc Morris invites us to pursue that feeling; to discover the foundations of our country. His book is packaged as a history of English origins. But whose history is it? ... A political narrative from the Romans to the Normans, it focuses on the lives of great men: kings, bishops and warlords ... Morris reassures us that great men built England ... We might ask, what about women? Morris expresses concern. He explains in his introduction: 'Sadly, none of the chapters is focused on a woman, because there is simply not evidence to sustain such an extended treatment'. But this is untrue ... Though he advises his readers of the necessity of marginalizing 50 per cent of the population, Morris’s focus on kings and bishops marginalizes 99 per cent. He seems to think he can write a history of the Anglo-Saxons that ignores the social and cultural frameworks that shaped life at that time. Morris’s canon of knowledge centred on great men impoverishes us all ... Morris’s brand of history is a relic of the Dickensian schoolroom. It numbs the inquiring mind, imposes specious value judgements, expresses impatience with debate, and lacks empathy with the past.
Throughout this clever, lively book Morris leans enthusiastically into uncertainty, inviting the reader to figure out the puzzles with him ... Morris has organised his book smartly, with each chapter focusing on a known person or group, and the themes slotting into the narrative ... Much of the Anglo-Saxon world was wiped out by the Normans, but as Morris’s splendid new book shows, there is plenty we can still see, and enjoy, today.
The opening of medievalist Marc Morris’s latest book recounts the discovery of a treasure trove of coin, gold, and artifacts found by accident in Suffolk by someone with a metal detector who was looking for a lost hammer ... Revelatory things are all about us if we take the time to look. The early history of England was replete with invasions whose enthusiastic actors were constantly looking to pillage and loot ... Morris takes us through various epochs of English history, much of it determined by whether kings were strong or weak, wise or foolish ... Morris has written an engaging account of turbulent times in a suitable and interesting style. If the book has a shortcoming, it is that the author tends to focus on warfare, siege craft, kingly coups, and the precariousness of daily life ... This is not to say that the book is scanty or superficial; the nearly one hundred pages of notes, bibliography, and index attest to the scholarly diligence involved in the book’s creation.