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The Year 1000: What Life Was Like at the Turn of the First Millennium, An Englishman's World Paperback – April 1, 2000

4.3 out of 5 stars 172 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"August was the month when flies started to become a problem, buzzing round the dung heaps in the corner of every farmyard and hovering over the open cesspits of human refuse that were located outside every house."

Although daily dangers were many, housing uncomfortable, and the dominant smells unpleasant indeed, life in England at the turn of the previous millennium was not at all bad, write journalists Lacey and Danziger. "If you were to meet an Englishman in the year 1000," they continue, "the first thing that would strike you would be how tall he was--very much the size of anyone alive today." The Anglo-Saxons were not only tall, but also generally well fed and healthy, more so than many Britons only a few generations ago. Writing in a breezy, often humorous style, Lacey and Danziger draw on the medieval Julius Work Calendar, a document detailing everyday life around A.D. 1000, to reconstruct the spirit and reality of the era. Light though their touch is, they've done their homework, and they take the reader on a well-documented and enjoyable month-by-month tour through a single year, touching on such matters as religious belief, superstition, medicine, cuisine, agriculture, and politics, as well as contemporary ideas of the self and society. Readers should find the authors' discussions of famine and plague a refreshing break from present-day millennial worries, and a very stimulating introduction to medieval English history. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Offering a delightful, often astonishing portrait of everyday life in Anglo-Saxon England in the year 1000, this wonderfully earthy chronicle, while timed for the end of this millennium, distinguishes itself from the sea of millennial titles by focusing on the end of the last one. Lacey (Sotheby's?Bidding for Class), a popular British historian, and London-based journalist Danziger (The Orchestra) focus on aspects of daily living. The Anglo-Saxons, a practical, self-contained, fervently superstitious people, were 99% illiterate, yet their language would become their most widespread legacy. Bristol was a slave-trading port, and the use of "bondservants" was a basic underpinning of the rural economy (the Norman invasion of 1066 would replace servitude with feudalism). There was no sugar, but honey was so valued that it became a form of currency. Personal hygiene was almost nonexistent, and most adults died in their 40s. Engla-lond, as the country was called, endured the best and the worst of times, enjoying unmatched prosperity but also falling prey to Viking raids, a menace that King Ethelred (the Unready) exacerbated by paying protection money. The narrative is organized in 12 chapters?one for each month?plus a closing chapter assessing the Anglo-Saxon legacy. Prefacing each chapter is a nimble, remarkably modern-looking, secular drawing of laborers' activities reproduced from the Julius Work Calendar, probably created by a cleric working in Canterbury Cathedral around 1020. This is a superb time capsule, and the authors distill a wealth of historical information into brightly entertaining reading. Agent, Curtis Brown.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; unknown edition (April 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780316511575
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316511575
  • ASIN: 0316511579
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (172 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #64,268 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is a light, easy-to-read, short, informative, witty, and amusing look at life 1000 years ago, in England. If you are a busybody at work or in life, and don't have time for endless volumes of detailed historical analysis, and want something light, short, and to the point, this is the book for you. Take it on a short holiday, read it on the train on the way to work, or just amuse yourself at home with a lighthearted look at life 1000 years ago. You may be surprised at some of the insights outlined here.
For example their diet was very different to ours. No spinach, tomatoe, potatoe, tea, coffee or chicken. Farming life was hard, and overall hygiene was of little importance, as without knowledge of disease subsistence and survival was placed higher on the list than clean dinner plates. Smelly residences were taken as given, as one simply lived with the inconvenience of dung from animals as part of ones daily life. No smoke from cars, or cigarretes, or noise from airplanes and highways, but smelly dung was eveywhere. There were no forks at the table, just knives. If you dropped your food on the floor, you ate it, but one recited a saintly word for the privelage. Clothes were less flamboyant, but coloured by innovative dyes. The queen in chess was of little importance and power, until Queen Elizabeth came around several centuries later. There sorts of details are just a few of the many intriguing bits of information presented in the book.
There is lots more, but you will have to muse over these in that 21st century train, bus, leather lounge, clean-sheeted bed, or by that modern resort swimming pool yourself. Lucky aren't we? Perhaps in another thousand years people will read about these sorts of things in their different lifestyles, think themselves lucky, and be thankful for our memories and contribution. I have no doubt they will.
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By jpb on January 9, 2000
Format: Hardcover
In this book, Lacey and Danziger break the year 1000 into twelve chapters, one for each month, and include important events preceding and following that year. The authors then take you back in time to live the life of an anglo-saxon peasant (contrasted with the life of the privileged) on a month-by-month basis. Having read a great deal of English and European history, I found the book well written, accurate (scholarly in its research while almost casual in its style) and placed in such an "every man" perspective as to be an engrossing read. It is a quick read with interesting period illustrations kicking off each chapter/month.
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Format: Hardcover
The book is written by journalists, not historians, and that in itself makes it all the more valuable for the general reader. Alas, too many historians write for other historians, and their prose is so stilted and dry as to be unreadable. But this book is a joy to read. Using the Julius Calendar as a device to introduce us to the everyday life of Anglo-Saxons in England in the years leading up to the first millennium, the authors present us with a perfect picture of what life must have been like on a seasonal basis, from January through December. I highly recommend this book to readers interested in the social history of that period who do not wish to wade through a thousand pages of scholarly boredom.
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Format: Hardcover
The authors have written an interesting and timely book. I liked all of the factoids and descriptions they gave about life one thousand years ago in England. Fascinating to see how our ancestors did it (life) facing challenges we have long ago conquored. The organization of the book tends to break up the narrative. It is mildly annoying in places, as are comparisons to current news that will, unfortunately quickly make this book look dated. This situation is caused by the author's using a period calendar as a backdrop to their story and organizing the book around the twelve months of the year and the seasonal activities of the Anglo-Saxons under study.
A quick read and overall enjoyable
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Format: Paperback
One of the remarkable things about Anglo-Saxon history is how little we know about it. As the authors of this compact guide to life in England around 1,000A.D. attest, there is at least thirty times more information available about the sexual proclivities of the 42nd President of the United States than about the entire first millenium of English history. Most chronicles were destroyed: firsty by the Normans - who sought to obliterate evidence of the robust native culture - and then during the chaos that followed Henry the Eighth's rejection of the Roman church. This latter orgy of destruction saw the almost complete annihilation of all manuscripts in Englisc, the Anglo-Saxon language from which modern English has descended, and the even greater and inexplicable destruction of virtually all visual art in English churches.

The authors' depiction of life at the end of the first millenium breaks away from many of the Anglo-Saxon stereotypes we hold in our collective unconsciousness. For example, do you think of pre-Norman Englishmen and women as short and malnourished, with rotten teeth? Well actually, their average height was similar to people in England today and they had very good teeth because their diet contained no sugar (sugar cane was imported from the Caribbean some six hundred years later). Although life was short (averaging forty years) and physically hard by today's standards, it had a particular richness, as this passage shows:

"They were practical, self-contained folk, not given to excessive agonizing or self-analysis. They knew how to make and mend, and when their day's work was done, they could also be very good company, since one of the most important things they had learned in their lives was how to entertain themselves.
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