History Michael Wood In Search of England

ISBN 13: 9780670861842

In Search of England

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9780670861842: In Search of England

Where does the idea of England and Englishness come from? Are there particular moments in the Dark and Middle Ages when we can see it begin to develop? How is being English different from being British? In 1113, French priests on a fund-raising tour were told by a crowd in front of St Peter's Church, Bodmin, that Arthur would one day return and "Britain would rise again". When they expressed scepticism, a near-riot broke out. The Arthur myth was then already established. But how had it gained credence? And is there any truth at its core? In his new book, Michael Wood examines this and other fascinating questions concerning Robin Hood, Alfred the Great, King Athelstan and the idea of the Norman Yoke. Peeling back to layers of literary and oral material that have accumulated over the years to separate fact from fiction, Wood demonstrates the fascinating build-up of a series of rich ideas - part history, part myth - that have contributed to the sense of what it means to be English. In the third part of "In Search of England", Michael Wood writes about particular places that illuminate aspects of early England and whose stories resonate through history: Tinsley Wood, near Sheffield, which has been claimed as the site of Athelstan's great victory against the Celts in 937; a farmhouse in Devon which has seen continuity of occupation since Domesday and possibly long before; and the village of Peatling Magna in Leicestershire, scene of an extraordinary confrontation with the King in 1265. These are the places and the events that offer a rooted, complementary version of the history that is discussed earlier in the book. "In Search of England" is published at a significant moment. As we move into the new millennium and as the various countries that make up the United Kingdom begin to assert their own identities, it offers a potent and revealing account of the origins of Englishness and the "Matter of Britain".

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Review:

From the popular television historian whose previous books include In Search of the Trojan War and In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great comes this study of a pressing question: Now that Britain seems to be an increasingly meaningless concept, what does it mean to be English? Michael Wood traces an answer through many of the most cherished national myths, such as Robin Hood, King Arthur, Alfred the Great, and the mysteries of Glastonbury. As you would expect from Wood, he ranges about over the whole of England, rather than sticking to the obvious places. He visits Tinsley Wood near Sheffield, claimed as the site of Athelstan's great victory over the Celts in A.D. 937. He finds a farmhouse in Devon that has been continuously occupied for 1000 years and a village in Leicestershire where the local peasantry confronted the king's soldiers in 1265 to tell them that they were violating the rights of "the common people of England." The book also boasts a wonderful, judicious collection of reproductions of old posters and paintings showing how English forebears, particularly the Victorians, imaginatively recreated the country's past in their own image. Timely, readable, and fascinating, this is popular history at its very best. --Christopher Hart, Amazon.co.uk

About the Author:

Michael Wood is a writer and historian living in England. He has worked as a journalist, broadcaster, and filmmaker, with over sixty films to his name. His book In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great (California, 1997), based on his PBS television series, was a bestseller in England and in the United States. He is also the author of In Search of the Trojan War (updated edition, California, 1998), which also accompanied a PBS series, and other books.

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