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Ecclesiastical History of the English People (Penguin Classics) Paperback – May 1, 1991

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About the Author

Bede (c. 672 or 673 – May 25, 735), was a Benedictine monk at the Northumbrian monastery of Saint Peter at Monkwearmouth, today part of Sunderland, and of its companion monastery, Saint Paul's, in modern Jarrow (see Wearmouth-Jarrow), both in the English county of Durham (now Tyne and Wear). He is well known as an author and scholar, and his most famous work, Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (The Ecclesiastical History of the English People) gained him the title "The father of English history".

D.H. Farmer was Reader in History at Reading University until 1988. He is author and editor of several books on ecclesiastical and monastic history such as The Oxford Dictionary of Saints.
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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Revised edition (May 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014044565X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140445657
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.9 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #55,047 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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67 of 70 people found the following review helpful By Fred Camfield on June 24, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book is a "must read" for anyone studying English history. It was completed by the monk Bede in 731 AD and contains a wealth of material he gathered from sources available at that time. He provided an overview of Roman emperors, and gives accounts of conflicts within the Roman empire and particularly within Briton. He provided a good account of Saxons and other invaders and their conflicts with the Romano-Britons. He also provided various sidelights including accounts of miracle cures using holy relics. Unfortuneately, the material is often all too brief, and the original sources seem to have vanished in the dust. For example, the uprising (led by the warrior queen Boadicea) against the Romans in 61 A.D. is described by Bede in a single sentence in the Greater Chronicle (4021) when, writing of Nero, he states "this emperor attempted nothing of a military kind, and even nearly lost Britain, where two of the finest towns were captured and sacked" (he is somewhat in error as three towns were burned to the ground, and the entire Roman Ninth Legion was massacred).
Chapters are very short, e.g., less than a page. I originally became interested while looking for material on King Arthur. Bede noted in Chapter 11 that after Gratian died, in 407, in his place "Constantine, a worthless soldier of the lowest rank, was elected in Britain solely on account of the promise of his name and with no other virtue to recommend him." This Constantine challenged the Romans in Gaul and was defeated and killed by the Roman officer Constantius. It is probable that this Constantine is the one alleged to be the grandfather of Arthur, but no solid connection is found (the name Constantine seems to have been fairly common). In Chapter 16, Bede again refers to the Britons after invaders (Saxons, etc.
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66 of 70 people found the following review helpful By Richard R. Carlton on October 27, 2002
Format: Paperback
There is a definite thrill to reading the actual words set down by the infamously unassuming monk himself. This is why there are so many fields where "Bede" is mandatory foundational literature, but if you are a student of English history, literature, theology, philosophy, or sociology you already know that. One of the most lasting of the many images the book creates is the biography of Bede himself; surviving a plague that left only the abbot and the young boy Bede to sing the Divine Offices, then settling in at Jarrow where he was sheltered with the precious books for the remainder of his life.
Dated as 731, Bede's history was written in his old age (when he was 60 or so) and his gentle manner of reflection on the relationship of kings, gentry, the Church, it's priests and leaders, and common folk with one another informs one quite clearly of the many years spent teaching other monks, repeatedly re-reading texts, and living the religious life that bestowed the title "Venerable Bede" upon him. A professional academic in every modern sense of the word, knowledgeable, inquiring, conscious of his place in history, inventor of the chronological annotation (A.D.), meticulous researcher of events, places, and times; from any perspective you choose, this book demands to be part of your life experience.
This edition (which is probably the best-known - it's Sherley-Price's 1955 translation) includes both Bede's Letter to Egbert and the great eyewitness account of Bede's death by Cuthbert, upon which a significant part of Bede's reputation rests. There is no way to read Cuthbert's letter without understanding the ideal of humility for a medieval monk.....the image of him giving away his earthly treasures of pepper, handkerchiefs and incense in the hours before he dies....it's an image that stays with you forever.
All in all, the work is one of the treasures of our species....
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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By J. Angus Macdonald on October 21, 2004
Format: Paperback
A few years ago, I had the chance to go to Durham Cathedral. As an American medievalist with a love of the Anglo-Saxon era I jumped at the chance. I had a chance there to see not only the resting place of Saint Cuthbert, but also The Vernerable Bede.

The Venerable Bede -- this is not a name, only an office. What his actual name was we will probably never know, but that is less important than the historical narrative he has left us. Having in mind to write a history of the English peoples, he goes on to write a work filled with wonders, colourful characters, foul villains, and ever and ever again, miracles.

The Bede was an ecclesiast and saw all of history filtered through the glass of the Church. Yet somehow he does not come off as "preachy" as many other historians of the time. Maybe it is because of his deft characterizations, maybe his succinct view of the seemingly necessary course of history, but in any case I find myself caught up in a well-told tale, with morals attached.

By modern terms the Bede's work is one-sided and biased, and yet if you wish a true window into a world, it is best to have a guide. The Bede gives us such a window, however imperfect, yet carefully and thoughtfully written. To understand the northern English kingdoms of the early Middle Ages, one must consult the Bede; luckily, he is also a sympathetic fellow and draws us in, gently and knowingly, and offers us historical truths (especially close to his own time) as well as small sermons.
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