Saturday, 30 May 2020

Women of Power in Anglo-Saxon England by Annie Whitehead

Women of Power in Anglo-Saxon England by Annie Whitehead
Published by Pen And Sword on the 30th May 2020.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Many Anglo-Saxon kings are familiar. Æthelred the Unready is one, yet less is written of his wife, who was consort of two kings and championed one of her sons over the others, or his mother who was an anointed queen and powerful regent, but was also accused of witchcraft and regicide. A royal abbess educated five bishops and was instrumental in deciding the date of Easter; another took on the might of Canterbury and Rome and was accused by the monks of fratricide. Anglo-Saxon women were prized for their bloodlines - one had such rich blood that it sparked a war - and one was appointed regent of a foreign country. Royal mothers wielded power; Eadgifu, wife of Edward the Elder, maintained a position of authority during the reigns of both her sons. Æthelflaed, Lady of the Mercians, was a queen in all but name, while few have heard of Queen Seaxburh, who ruled Wessex, or Queen Cynethryth, who issued her own coinage. She, too, was accused of murder, but was also, like many of the royal women, literate and highly-educated. From seventh-century Northumbria to eleventh-century Wessex and making extensive use of primary sources, Women of Power in Anglo-Saxon England examines the lives of individual women in a way that has often been done for the Anglo-Saxon men but not for their wives, sisters, mothers and daughters. It tells their stories: those who ruled and schemed, the peace-weavers and the warrior women, the saints and the sinners. It explores, and restores, their reputations.

I had been looking forward to reading Women Of Power in Anglo-Saxon England because it's an era of British history that I don't know a lot about. However it turns out that this, for most of the Royal women anyway, is because authentic source material isli limited or doesn't even exist. Here Annie Whitehead breathlessly recounts anything recorded, with far too much reliance on presumed and imagined ideas to fill in the many gaps.
The result for me was too many names jumbled up together, mostly without enough (or any!) background information to enable me to establish each person in my mind before the text moves on to someone else. The book might be meaningful as an overview to historians who already know the era and recognise these people, but unfortunately it wasn't a good choice for me.
DNF at 20%.

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  1. I am reading this book right now and loving it. Sorry it did not work for you. I love the bookmarks you found!

    1. I'm glad you can appreciate this one!
      I really wanted to, but it just totally addled my brain :-(

  2. You don't give out one stars and dnfs very easily so I know that you must really have not enjoyed this one and I will be sure not to read it!

    1. It might just be me because Sarah's getting on well with this book. Maybe see if you can read a preview somewhere?