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Most of the books on my list-of-books-to-be-reviewed-without-the-use-of-pseudish-cockwaffle are not history books. However, the review randomiser (i.e. asking bunn to think of a number) has come out with another history book.

You might think, given the title, that this is not a serious history book at all, but some kind of children's book in which a plucky girl called Emma outwits and outfoxes nasty rough vikings. It is a serious history book, but actually, that description isn't far off. You probably haven't heard of Emma, unless you're already well read in early 11th century English history. You'll come away from this book thinking that she should be a really famous and important person in English history. She was after all, Queen to two different Kings of England (one of whom was also King of Denmark and of Norway), mother to two more Kings of England and stepmother to two more Kings of England (and great aunt to William the Conqueror). She was the richest woman in England and wielded considerable diplomatic influence across England, Normandy, Denmark and Norway. She seems to have been particularly influential in the transition from Viking rule of England to English rule.

The book itself is nicely written and despite its title it does a good job of explaining the various factions and the political and diplomatic situation. I was particularly intrigued by it because this isn't a period of history that seems to be covered much, either in popular culture, or by popular historians. For example, Simon Schama's 'History of Britain' makes no mention of Sweyn and Cnut's conquest of England. I knew a bit about Cnut, but I bet to most people he's the guy who couldn't stop the tide coming in. There seems to be a big gap between Alfred the Great and 1066 that nobody writes novels about and nobody makes films about and nobody writes history books about. That's surprising because a hell of a lot happens - and most of it is described in this book.

Very readable and I found it a very interesting period that I previously knew relatively little about. Highly recommended.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 22nd, 2016 09:34 pm (UTC)

I think Cecilia Holland set at least one novel in this period. I'll see if I can find more tomorrow.

Mar. 23rd, 2016 08:11 am (UTC)
I'd be interested to know about that. I like the early 11th century as a setting.
Mar. 23rd, 2016 09:27 am (UTC)
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Mar. 23rd, 2016 10:35 am (UTC)
It wasn't Cecilia Holland. Which means that although I'm sure I read a novel based round her, or at least with her as a major character, I can't find it. Sorry.
Mar. 23rd, 2016 10:55 am (UTC)
The search goes on!
Mar. 23rd, 2016 12:36 pm (UTC)
There are quite a few novels set in this period on this list here, including a series by Patricia Bracewell about Emma herself.

Coincidentally, I was reading an article about Edmund Ironside just minutes before reading this review, and thought, "I must read more about this period." It was revealing that when we were playing Britannia in Manchester, not one of us had even heard of that other Sweyn, Sweyn Estridsson, the eventual One True Ruler ruler of the war-torn land.
Mar. 23rd, 2016 01:48 pm (UTC)
Ooh yes, that Patricia Bracewell series looks like what I'm after.
Mar. 23rd, 2016 01:50 pm (UTC)
On a vaguely related note, can you think of any historical novels or series that deal with the Norman period after the death of William I? So William II versus Robert, Stephen versus Mathilda, that sort of thing? That's another period that seems interesting but that I've never learned much about.

For that matter, are there any nice readable non-fiction history books covering that period?
Mar. 23rd, 2016 04:21 pm (UTC)
There are loads listed on that website I linked to. (Direct link to relevant page is here. I've not read any of them myself, though.
Mar. 23rd, 2016 07:05 pm (UTC)
Yeah I saw that list. NOne of them seem to be quite what I'm looking for though, which I suppose is something like Bernard Cornwell's Saxon Stories just a few centuries later.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )