The Very Rich Hours of the Lambrights

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What I’m reading

October 25th, 2006 · No Comments

Arthur’s Britain

Arthur’s Britain by Leslie Alcock provides a good overview of British history from the 4th to 7th centuries. This was the period in which the original inhabitants of Britain gradually gave way to settlers/invaders from northern Germany. If the legends of King Arthur were actually based on a real person (a matter of considerable controversy among scholars), he would have lived during this period.

Alcock is a former professor of archeology at the University of Glasgow and is a recognized authority on this subject. Besides a simple narrative of events, he devotes many pages to an examination of the evidence historians have to use in their studies. These fall into two categories: written documents from the time (and later documents that drew upon them) and archaeological evidence. Both are scanty; there are less than 20 surviving documents known to be written at the time and most of them are fragmentary. This makes it impossible to say we KNOW much of these events. All we really have are guesses. Educated guesses, to be sure, but still guesses.

I’d be lying if I said this was a fast read but it serves as an invaluable introduction to the history of England during this important period. SCAers with early period British, Saxon, Irish, or Pictish personas should find it useful, particularly for the illustrations of artifacts that have been excavated from various archaeological sites.

One word of warning: This book was originally published in 1971 and there have been a lot of developments in the field since then. Several of Alcock’s conclusions have been challenged by new scholarship. In the 2001 edition that I’m reading, Alcock does not revise any of his text to reflect this. He does, however, mention it in a new preface and provides a supplementary bibliography for readers who want to pursue alternative viewpoints.

Tags: Books · SCA

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