Book Review: The Year 1000

The Year 1000:  What Life Was Like At The Turn Of The First Millennium:  An Englishman’s World, by Robert Lacey and Danny Danziger

This book was disappointing.  I have read at least some books that sought to convey how life was like in various historical places and times [1], but this book had something those books did not have, and that was a marked agenda to promote heathen thinking and operating.  A great deal of the problems of this book have to do with its organization, as the author uses a monthly view attached to the Julian calendar (rather than the seasonal based calendar that was used at the time, to say nothing of the biblical look at time from new moon to new moon starting in the springtime.  This organization means that the book is more or less a disconnected set of reflections where the authors try to impress the reader with their perspectives, to disappointing effect.  If you are not the sort of person who appreciates where the authors are coming from and their desire to pursue various cultural agendas, this book will not be very enjoyable or pleasant of a read, and that’s certainly the way it was for me.  At least it’s short though.

The book is about 200 pages long and is divided into a chapter per month along with some supplementary material.  The book begins with a discussion of the Julius work calendar that gave the inspiration for this book’s organization and the wonder of survival of ancient texts given the paucity of information we have about the early Middle Ages in England.  After that the author discusses the matter of saints days and the religious life of England in 1000 (1) as well as the matter of language and how English was influenced by its various accents as well as the Norse presence in the Danelaw (2).  After that the author talks about living conditions (3) as well as the feasting that was associated with Easter (4).  Next comes a talk about England’s wealth and the possibility that it came from wool exports as it did at a later date (5), as well as a discussion of life in town (6).  There is then a discussion of the matter of work (7) as well as various remedies for illness (8).  Following this is a reflection on England’s pagan heritage (9) as well as the wars that England had to deal with (10) during the time.  Finally, the book ends with a discussion of women’s issues and the price of fondling (11) as well as the apocalypticism of the times (12), an epilogue on the English spirit, as well as acknowledgements, a bibliography, source notes, and an index.

It is important when reading a book like this to ponder the reality that no one writes a book without an agenda.  The question is whether the agenda will be acceptable to the reader or not.  In this particular case I did not find the agenda of the book to be acceptable, and as a result this book was not particularly enjoyable to me at all.  There are definitely some useful tidbits in this book that are enjoyable but the overall feeling of the book was more that the authors were trying to push something that I wasn’t particularly interested in accepting.  The fact that the organizing scheme of the book is only the most loosely connected to the materials of the book does not improve matters and allows for even more scattered writing than would otherwise be the case.  This book is basically a tangentially connected book of fourteen essays or so, most of them only very slightly tied to the month that they are labeled by.  The authors might think that they are being clever in terms of their organization but it’s not something that comes off as well to a skeptical reader.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/06/25/book-review-the-time-travelers-guide-to-medieval-england/

 

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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