In addition to reading books, I also listen to podcasts. Recently, I’ve completed all current episodes of the massive British History Podcast: https://www.thebritishhistorypodcast.com/
But I don’t review podcasts, I review books. So after finishing the podcast, I decided to read three of the Middle Ages texts mentioned by the host: History of the Ruin of Briton, by Gildas, History of the Britons, by Nennius, and The Life of King Alfred the Great by Asser.
I recommend listening to the podcast, then reading these three books. You will gain a very complete picture of the early Middle Ages in Britain, just as I did.
On the Ruin of Britain
Published in the 6th Century AD
Thibault’s Score: 4/5
You can find the complete text of the book here for free:
Gildas is a very readable author (by ancient standards). His text helped give me a clear picture of what kind of knowledge someone inhabiting sub-roman Britain would have of the Roman Empire. It also is one of history’s best remaining sources of history for this period of Britain.
History of the Britons
Published in 828 AD
Thibault’s Score: 4/5
Free audiobook download: https://librivox.org/history-of-the-britons-historia-brittonum-by-nennius/
This book can be seen as an attempt by a later author to copy Gildas and expand on his work. Some segments of the text are clearly paraphrased from Gildas, however this book continues where Gildas left off.
This book also gives an account of King Arthur, who would have, around the time when Gildas lived, have attempted to fend off the Anglo Saxons. It is interesting to note the degree by which Romans has become a legendary figures by the time of Nennius.
The Life of Alfred the Great
Thibault’s Score: 3/5
Free audiobook download: https://librivox.org/alfred-the-great-by-asser/
I found Asser, unlike Nennius and Gildas, to be very difficult to follow. The many names, places, and events I was unfamiliar with confused me. Furthermore, the year by year nature of the events made tying cause and effect very difficult for me. This may have entirely been because I listened to the entire audiobook immediately after I finished Nennius and was getting tired.
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