First MillenniumThe first millennium
so slowly in Europe? During the first millennium AD, colourful fabrics with new dyeing techniques and access to materials came into fashion. At the end of the second millennium B.C., abrupt climate changes on the Syrian coast and their possible significance for the history of the eastern Mediterranean region.
Great Britain in the first millennium
With the commendable goal of anchoring Britain's past within its own Europe, a new Keith Robbins editorial board has been created, not because Britain is withdrawing from savage seclusion to become part of Europe, but because Britain is beginning to emerge from prehistoric times.
They begin to study a pamphlet trying to debate Britain throughout the first millennium A.D. with a certain feeling of amazement that something like this should even be done, because the abilities required of the Iron Age over the whole Rome and then over most of the Anglo-Saxon era are manifold.
Edward the Confessor's rule is discussed very briefly at the end of the volume, although James does not deliberately suggest that we could date the Norman period in England from 1042. It is a storybook with many good things in and about it.
Faithful to the goal of the serial and the author's own research story, the report places the UK's past in its continental perspective and shows the continuing importance of comprehensive policy aspirations and coalitions, commerce and supra-regional idealistic development. Of course, different people are going to be learning different things from this textbook, but all in all, such points show the subtile incorporation of particular details into a wide, comparable image that has a strong point.
Therefore, after citing Terry Pratchett in a cool way, James finds it hard to marvel at the Rome military "in a post-colonial postfascist conscious world" instead of the Scottish soldiers (p. 19); and the rift between Northumbria and the remainder of England turns into a hint of the harassment of the north by William the conqueror in 1069 (so different from his behavior?) and then into a " northerly essence against a southerly regim ony", smoothly.
When there is a subject on which James' position is exposed to critique because it is much more unreasonable, it is that of Christianity and the Church which he views with an abhorrence reminding of Edward Gibbon. Though Christianity is recognized as the "most treacherous part of Romanization ", while Rome's imperialism is also generally viewed with aversion (pp. 38-41), James nevertheless slip into the same inconsequence that Gibbon is to blame, and in doing so unfavorably contrasts Christians' intolerance and mystique (superstition) with Rome's eclecticism and rationality (pp. 66ff).
At best on page 127 summ gong kyninges þebn is equivocally interpreted as'a young King thegn' instead of'a young hegn of the king', while on page 234 it seems important that the Anglo-Saxon chronicle for 877, strike deldon sums, clearly means that the Vikings shared a part of the Mercia area.
Obviously James has forgot the well-known tale of Cynewulf and Cyneheard in the chronicle. Such failures in the raw materials are disturbingly intimate in trials that seek to combine a variety of evidences to create a true historical culture of the past. First, inter-disciplinary culture must be preceeded by a multi-disciplinary education, which is becoming more and more possible at the academic levels through the use of modules, although not at a very progressive stage of qualification and expertise.
The first millennium of Edward James' Great Britain is ultimately a textbook of archaeological and philological interest, not a work in a new scientific field of inter-disciplinary literacy. But above all, I am inspired by the idea that there is now another, methodically different volume that must be composed alongside and around this historic frame - one that courageously goes where it has never been before and that breaks the form of traditional periodicization by looking at the first millennium, from 1-1000 AD.
How much has the millennium really changed, one might wonder, considering the density of populations, the standard of living and longevity, the economical and technological circumstances and the farming state? That would not carry the worrying conclusion that even such tragic and destructive incidents as the conquest of Rome, Anglo-Saxon, Christian and the Vikings did not really seem to have played a role in this respect, but only to show how much a truly inter-disciplinary perspective can complement each other.
Every serious scientific writer who is not unbearably sure of what, why and how he does his work will be haunted by doubt in the course of a great book: Mr James can be proud of the skillful and sensible work he has done to write a recap of Britain's past from the time of the Romans to the night before the Norman period.
James' book's merit and achievement are a justification for the decisions he has made, and he does not need to further clarify or excuse why he has done things the way he has done. Since I know that Edward James will now have the chance to answer these comments, I should be particularly interested to hear his thoughts about the scheme in retrospect and to hear any proposals he might make now as to where this should take him in the immediate futures.