Friday, April 27, 2012

The Year 1000

The Year 1000, Robert Lacey and Danny Danzinger

I have spent a bit of time in history books of late – Christian women, history of the home.  Here is another offering – The Year 1000.   Subtitled helpfully with a full explanation of it's purpose: What Life was like at the Turn of the First Millennium: An Englishman’s World, it obviously gives an introduction to life in England in the Year 1000.

Based on the Julian Work Calendar, a 12 month illustrated calendar which has survived from those times, the authors take you on a tour of England. You are given an insight into kings, Vikings and Normans, the agrarian life, how the average person lived, what they ate and what they believed.

It’s a lovely little book and at 200 pages, very readable for those who want a taste of history without lots of detail.
Life was simple. People wore the simple, sack-like tunics with leggings that we laugh at in the Monty-Python movies, though in colours that were rather less muddy…

Life was short. Boys of twelve was considered old enough to declare allegiance to the king, while girls got married in their early teens, often to men who were significantly older than they were. (p10)

The whole book has a great tone to it – full of respect for the times and the people who lived in them:
These were not people we should patronise. They were practical, self-contained folk, not given to excessive agonising or self-analysis, to judge from the few who committed their thoughts to paper – the ideal type to choose as companions on a desert island, since they were skilful with their hands, and they could turn their hands to anything. (p26)

We have more wealth, both personal and national, better technology, and infinitely more skilful ways of preserving and extending our lives. But whether we today display more wisdom or common humanity is an open question, and as we look back to discover how people coped with the daily difficulties of existence a thousand years ago, we might also consider whether, in all our sophistication, we could meet the challenges of their world with the same fortitude, good humour, and philosophy. (p201)

An enjoyable and informative little book.

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