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Harold: The Last Anglo-Saxon King

3.93  ·  Rating Details  ·  107 Ratings  ·  17 Reviews
King Harold Godwineson (c.1022-66) is one of history's shadowy figures, known mainly for his defeat and death at the Battle of Hastings. His true status and achievements have been overshadowed by the events of October 1066 and by the bias imposed by the Norman victory. In truth, he deserves to be recalled as one of England's greatest rulers. Harold: The Last Anglo-Saxon Ki ...more
ebook, 336 pages
Published September 1st 2011 by The History Press (first published August 1997)
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Mercedes Rochelle
Nov 28, 2014 Mercedes Rochelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ian Walker's book about Harold Godwineson pretty much brings us over familiar territory, but with a twist. I find his approach to this complex and sparsely documented era to be both intriguing and a little heavy-handed. On the one hand, he does give all the relevant background to a particular event, but then he usually proceeds to make a firm conclusion as to which story is correct. Once concluded, all future events are predicated on this preconceived notion. I find that his conclusions are usua ...more
Greg
Aug 14, 2012 Greg rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I should have read the reviews before starting to read this book.

It was clearly well researched. It is clearly about a fascinating character. It clearly has a great plot structure (who doesn't love those man-versus-man stories?).

What is not clear is why this book is so tedious.

Is it because so many pages are devoted to the career of his father? Yes, the family ties and history are obviously of import. Theories about how Godwin's actions and beliefs affected his son Harold are only briefly menti
...more
Marilyn
Harold: The Last Anglo-Saxon King, written by Ian W. Walker, was an in-depth history, of not only the end of an era of Anglo-Saxon reign, it also told the story of how closely that the actual Battle of Hastings was, and that at one point the battle was actually in King Harold's favor. But this book was also much more than that, it gave a lengthy background of not only King Harold's background, but enough background on King Edward the Confessor which allowed a somewhat better understanding of the ...more
Jen
It's almost amazing how long 200+ pages can seem. I've read much longer books that didn't seem...well...like I was walking though quicksand wearing three layers of sweats. To say this book trudged along would be insulting to things that trudge.

That said, I did learn a lot from reading it. For the most part, Harold (you know, that guy that got died at the Battle of Hastings) is the forgotten man. He's known pretty much as "the guy that lost" and that's about it. This book delves into his family,
...more
Sonya
Nov 20, 2014 Sonya rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. It introduced Harold the man to me and showed how he and his father came to be in such power although he was not of the royal line. I began to look at the Conquest in a different manner - as not just something that happened in history - as I read about how Harold fought so hard but yet lost all in the end. The author also did a good job explaining why the family did not defeat William after Harold's death and explained what happened to them in the aftermath. What is i ...more
Geoff Boxell
Mar 08, 2016 Geoff Boxell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
THE book for information on Harold, the last King of the English.
Matt
Dec 29, 2015 Matt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A history text that covers a lot of ground and still manages to score high points for readability, Ian Walker's biography of Harold Godwineson and his treatment of the eventful year of 1066 is stellar. He is clearly most at home in considering the political dramas and personalities of the time, and this astute awareness of individual ties, loves, hatreds, friendships, rivalries, ambitions and follies brings to life what would otherwise be a rather dull chronology of the House of Godwine.

Clearly
...more
Ellen Ekstrom
Wow. I rarely do not suffer while reading history, but as I've whined in my updates, this was the longest 290 pages I've ever read. Mr. Walker gave us the complete history of Harold Godwineson's father, Godwin Wulfnothson, and his rise to power in the mid-eleventh century, the crisis of 1052, but almost glossed over Harold, the subject of his book!

I give the book four stars for the research, two stars for actually covering the career of Harold, who was the last Anglo-Saxon King of England.

Hist
...more
Bkwormmegs
I actually took about a week to read this - adding it late to my Goodreads feed. It does seem like a loooong 300 pages. Harold's father is covered in detail, but there is less about Harold, perhaps because we have lost so much information in the Norman conquest. If only the writing style had been less grammatically convoluted! The man loves commas and when you are talking about three women named Gytha you need definitive punctuation to clarify who the subject is supposed to be. An easier system ...more
Debbi
Oct 22, 2013 Debbi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in British history or royalty
Finally finished! The book is not a difficult read, I simply found several distractions after beginning it. It is mostly well-written, although after being immersed in several years of using the Chicago Manual of Style, the author's use of passive voice and redundant phrasing jumped out at me.

Using the Bayeaux Tapestry and contemporary writings including William of Poitiers and William of Jumieges, Walker brings the usual dim picture of Harold Godwineson to life. He does not try to insert what m
...more
Pam Shelton-anderson
This was a very good book about the last king before the Conquest of England. Like Richard III, Harold's reputation and place in history suffered because he lost his final battle. This author makes a very good point that if Harold is a usurper it was not against William (who had exacted a dubious oath from Harold who risked imprisonment at his hands) but Edgar the Aethling. Harold, despite the weakness of his claim to the throne, was energetic, valiant and capable and largely ended the Viking th ...more
Stacey
Not as academic as I expected. I was able to follow along and found it intriguing and well written. It was hard to keep up with all the names, particularly during the chapter of Harold vs Harald, but with some focus and concentration, I managed to pull through. It felt a bit defensive at times, but of all the medieval monarchs, Harold probably deserves it more than anyone. I learned quite a bit and appreciated the deductive reasoning and theorizing. I dare say Harold may have found a new admirer ...more
Graham Lee
Dec 26, 2013 Graham Lee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
It's a dense read but worth it. I didn't know much about the period and this job does a good job of both describing the political scene in 11th century England and tying it to the wider European context. It's clear that the author goes out of his way to paint Harold Godwineson in a flattering light, for example his use of William of Poitiers is straightforward in some parts, fills in some equivocal sections with his own interpretation but he rejects it where it prefers William. Still a very deta ...more
Nicki
May 01, 2015 Nicki rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
Gave up on this after first chapter. Found it a bit dry and I love history.
Glynn
Jun 27, 2013 Glynn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ian W Walker shines a dazzling light on this part of what is often referred to as the dark ages. Not only does he write a thoroughly researched account of Harold's life, he also puts it in the context of the late Anglo Saxon period. this book is a labour of love and it comes over as such. There's detail enough to greatly inform you without your getting bogged down in the minutia of humdrum daily life. A superb read!
Becky Cresswell
Jun 20, 2015 Becky Cresswell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very helpful!
Raymond Brown
Apr 21, 2012 Raymond Brown rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A tremendous story. Harold very nearly was not defeated by William, if not for the haste of moving between two battle fronts the outcome might have been entirely different. A very interesting tale of the strength of this English King.
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