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Ecclesiastical History of the English People (Penguin Classics) Paperback – May 1, 1991
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From the Back Cover
About the Author
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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This is not a general history of England (for that, you want to also read The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as that work contains more material of general historical interest).
Bede's work is fascinating, despite its narrow focus, for a couple of reasons. First, he provides a window into the view of the religious values of Anglo-Saxon England and it is interesting to compare this work with Orkneyinga Saga: The History of the Earls of Orkney (Penguin Classics) and The Journey Through Wales and The Description of Wales (Penguin Classics), both of which provide additional views into the religious sentiments of the Middle Ages. Secondly, he provides one of only a few early histories of the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons.
I found the translation to be quite accessible and easy to read, though in a few places it probably could have done with a few more footnotes. For example, Bede's insistence that the main ethnic groups in Britain were the Irish, the Welsh, the Picts, and the English makes sense if you realize that the Scots were considered Irish, and indeed that "Scotia Major" was a name for Ireland, but if you don't have this background it is a bit confusing. All in all these were minor problems however and did not overly detract from reading the work.
This is one of the primary sources for studying early Anglo-Saxon history.
Top international reviews
Has one of my favorite quotes in all Christendom.
read the book it is well worth it
Your Majesty, when we compare the present life of man on earth with that time of which we have no knowledge, it seems to me like the swift flight of a single sparrow through the banqueting-hall where you are sitting at dinner on a winter’s day with your thegns and counsellors. In the midst there is a comforting fire to warm the hall; outside the storms of winter rain or snow are raging. This sparrow flies swiftly in through one door of the hall, and out through another. While he is inside, he is safe from the winter storms; but after a moment of comfort, he vanishes from sight into the wintry world from which he came. Even so, man appears on earth for a little while; but of what went before this life or of what follows, we know nothing. Therefore, if this new teaching has brought any more certain knowledge, it seems only right that we should follow it.”
Very much enjoying it, and works well with other recent purchase, Britain's Spiritual Inheritance, which recommends Bede.