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History of the English Church & People
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History of the English Church & People

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  2,387 ratings  ·  108 reviews
Written in AD 731, Bede's work opens with a background sketch of Roman Britain's geography and history. It goes on to tell of the kings and bishops, monks and nuns who helped to develop Anglo-Saxon government and religion during the crucial formative years of the English people. Leo Sherley-Price's translation brings us an accurate and readable version, in modern English, ...more
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published December 20th 1999 by Dorset Press (first published 731)
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One night a group of monks from Durham cathedral seized Bede's remains and took them back to Durham for reburial there, making Bede one of those people who have ended up travelling further in death than they ever did while alive.

The give away fact about this book is it's title. What Bede wants to tell us is going to be within the explicit framework of a story of the growth and progression from strength to strength of Christianity in the British Isles, if necessary irrespective of the facts. From
This is a hard book to review, because whether it deserves five stars or 2-3 stars is going to depend pretty heavily on why you're reading it.

If you're reading it for academic purposes, it's really wonderful - it's one of the very, very few sources that we have for early English history and it's a goldmine of intriguing information on topics from the early Saxon kingdoms, the native Picts and Britons, or the procession of English conversion to Christianity.

If you're reading it just for pleasur
So first of all: did you know there used to be an English king in the 4th century by the name of Sexwulfe? SEXWULFE?! That’s probably the coolest name ever. How did I get so far in life, not knowing this was a real name? And why aren’t more people (David Bowie, specifically) changing their names to SEXWULFE?

Putting that aside, this book was an interesting mix of history and fiction. Written by the monk Bede in the 7th century, it gives readers a general feel for what was going on in Great Britai
Synopsis leading up to quote:

Pope Gregory directed Augustine to preach to the English nation on Christianity, which had fallen by the wayside in England after many bloody civil wars and latterly the leaving of their allies and benefactors, the Romans. On reaching Britain Augustine met with King Ethelbert, who reigned over Kent. King Ethelbert, after listening to the preachings of Augustine, says the following (according to Bede):

"Your words and promises are fair indeed, but they are new and unce
A classic that you will have to read at some time if you're an educated person. Bede is the original model for what we call a historian -- he cites his sources, and uses a variety of sources, and he uses a narrative style is his writing. Bede popularized the BC/AD dating system (something that everyone in the liberal arts can be eternally grateful for), and his writing is actually pretty darn readable. He focuses a bit much on magical thinking and the lives of the saints, treating hagiography (w ...more
Joseph R.
One of the great writers in early English literature is the monk Bede. He lived from 672 to 735 A.D. in northern England at the monastery of Jarrow. He was a great scholar and author of many works, Ecclesiastical History of the English People being the most famous. It is a primary source for early British history.

The book starts with the Roman invasions by Julius Caesar in the first century B.C. and Claudius in the first century A.D. This part is quickly covered, since Bede's main interest is to
Bede's Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum is one of the most important sources on the early Germanic settlement of Britain, the founding of the early kingdoms and the growth of Christianity amongst the English.

Beginning with Julius Caesar's invasion of Britain, then the first incursions of the Germanic Angles, Saxons and Jutes and the first Christian missionaries that were despatched by Pope Gregory under the leadership of Augustine to the pagan english, culminating in Bede's own lifetime w
Joseph Rizzo
Bede provides a unique contribution to church and English history. This is a detailed account on Christianity in the British Isles up until the 8th century. In many places this reads like Chronicles and Kings in the Old Testament as it details the reigns of the various kings and Kingdoms. Northumbrians, Mercians, Angles, Jute's Picts, Irish, Saxons - this is a rich history of these people groups. It is interesting to think of a time when there was not just England / Great Britain.

It is hard to
This book is a very interesting and educational read. It brings to life the age when everyone believed in miracles and the power of the divine. Provides a lot of insight into the era that it comes from. Bede's work provides great insight into the beliefs of the Christian church during this period. Also provides insight on the pagan peoples of this era, despite the biases that the author has and maintains throughout the work towars these people. A must read for any history student or anyone inter ...more
Adele Jones
I read it purely to check it off my list, but enjoyed it much more than I expected to. I'm fairly sure I have already forgotten who presided at what monastery and who had what miracle, etc., but I think I'll come back to it someday (maybe after I've learned Latin). I'm not a scholar, so I don't have much to say except that it was a good read, it made me want to be holy and good, except when he got on the subject of correct Easter observance, which made me want to go back in time and commit murde ...more
Nicola Griffith
For maximum culture shock, try the Plummar/Sherley-Price edition with its mind-bogglingly literal mid-twentieth century introduction. Here is an eighth-century English monk inventing the notion of cultural history in the short, snappy one- or two-page chapters I thought had been first used by twentieth-century bestsellers.

This is the only source of information about Hild: the woman who grew up to become St Hilda of Whitby--and changed the world.
The Gatekeeper
Dec 18, 2008 The Gatekeeper rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history lovers
Recommended to The Gatekeeper by: Douglas Wilson
I didn't love this book. It was probably the worst one I've had to read for school this year. Most of it was boring, and it was discouraging to see how the early church drifted farther and farther away from the gospel, eventually focusing almost entirely on saints, relics, penance, and good works. However, it was interesting to read about how England became a country, and to learn how the B.C. and A.D. dating system was invented (by Bede, apparently).
Angela Mortimer
THE first English history by an Anglo-Saxon saint and monk takes us back to names, people and places that are barely remembered in present history books, a fascinating read for it is much closer and perhaps more accurate for it, without this book we would know so little of those early times, as the Normans chose only to remember themselves. Well worth a read.
William Korn
For the 600 years between the time the Romans left Britain for good and the time the Normans took over the administration of England, there is not a lot known about what was going on. The Venerable Bede, a monk at the monastery in Jarrow, was one of the very few people who was keeping track of events for the first half of that period when the Angles and Saxons moved in, and Britain became England. While the book concentrates on the lives and works of the clergy, monks, and nuns of that time, it ...more
This is not one of those books that you pick up to on a cold winter's night so you can make yourself cozy and sip tea, but I absolutely loved reading this. I will admit that I had trouble keeping all of the Berts separate and the lineages were a bit hard to follow at times, but I was taken away to another time when Great Britain was even more divided, wild, and primitive.

This is well worth your time if you wish to understand Great Britain, European history, Celts, Saxons, Jutes, Angles, Picts, P
The Venerable Bede here enlightens us regarding the early medieval period in English history, which was not quite so dark as some have made it out to be.
Joel Zartman
I think one of the things you have to understand about Bede is that he's living at the stage when because Christianity was official and martyrdom less common the remains of martyrs gained importance. Of course, by his time Christianity had been official for a while. All the more: there was no question then about the importance in the Christian world of the remains of martyrs. He lived after the missionary activity that brought Christianity in a lasting way to much of England. But the attitude to ...more
Heather Tomlinson

This is a fascinating book, and surprisingly easy to read. Bede, in the 8th Century, attempts to write the history of England from pre-Roman times to his time of writing. He's a monk, and mainly concerned about the state of the church and the spread of Christianity. He does mention the kings and general moral state of the country, as well as any war or conflict, which he disapproves of.
It's really interesting from the point of view of English History, but especially looking at the history of th
I guess it's a very important book because, well, what other primary source is there to read on this subject? If nothing else, I learned why it's important for the Church to celebrate Easter at the right true time, and how that time is calculated with less than a 1% margin of error, and all the various ways some churches misunderstood or miscalculated the proper feast day. What I still want to know is, how come Bede in 731 knew the Earth is a globe, and Christopher Columbus in 1492 had to prove ...more
Dirk Bontes
Ha! I could write a book about what I think about this book.

Let it suffice that this is one of the must reads. In fact I have read it twice now. This time I read the 1955 pocket paperback, but a dozen years ago I already read it in a hardcover edition. I may read it again at a later time.

In translation Bede has a pleasant language. He has a lot to tell about the church history and about the nobility of his and earlier times. What I do miss - but he had another mission - was more tidbits about th
Jacob Aitken
This book is an extremely valuable snapshot of early British Christianity (and also early Western Christianity). Unfortunately, it is also a terribly-written book. Very little narrative. Different paragraphs strung together. Context is never given.

Many monastic theologians say that reading the ancients (and people like Bede) is plovdig, spiritual struggle. One is challenged to read Bede and see how different one's perspective of reality is from Bede's. And instead of jumping to the conclusion th
Primary document on the spread of Christianity to the British Isles - written in the first half of the eighth century by the Venerable Bede, a Benedictine monk, who is considered to be the first English historian, having attempted to provide an accurate, factual record of events, as best as he was able to determine them. He relied on and included some primary documents (correspondence with Rome, proceedings of church synods, chronicles of the various monasteries and kingdoms, etc.). But he combi ...more
Stephanie Ricker
Bede, an English monk, finished the History in 731 AD, and he’s generally considered to be the first English historian. He wrote in Latin, of course, but my Latin is NOT up to that kind of challenge, so I’m reading a translation. It’s no page-turner; most ecclesiastical writings from the 8th century aren’t, I expect. But it is intriguing for those with an interest in British history. Bede definitely has his biases. He was quite the Pope Gregory fanboy, and in the book he copies many of the pope’ ...more
Written in the midst of the 'Dark ages' by a monk of Jarrow monastery, in the modern country of Northumberland, England, this book is more than a historical text, it is the story of a people, and their embryonic nation.
From the invasion of Julius Ceasar to his own time Bede tells the story of Britain in his own words.

Focusing upon the coming of the Saxons, and their conversion to the Catholic religion under Augustine, Bede's voice permeates this text. Sometimes praising the warrior Kings of Lege
M. Milner
For a student of history, especially one studying the history of the English church, this is a very valuable source: it's full of letters, testimonies of miracles and lists of kings, bishops, priests and of when and how various churches and congregations were settled. There's a lot of information and it's actually pretty well presented, too. But for a more general reader, especially someone without much background in the history of the church, this can be overwhelming: I had a hard time keeping ...more
This is an excellent translation of the "father of English history"'s most popular (and presumably finest) work Ecclesiastical History of the English People. In this history, Bede tells the story of the first evangelization of the Britons by Roman missionaries, then the destruction of the Briton church in the invasion of the Saxons, and finally the re-evangelization of the "English" (="Anglos and Saxons"/"Anglo-Saxons") by the Celtic church in Ireland and the Roman church on the continent (thoug ...more
Peter B.
This book is a good look into the world of the early medieval church in Britain. It shows the church with all its strengths and weaknesses. Its strengths (from my perspective) included familiarity with the Bible, the singing of psalms, its formal doctrine, the fear of God, a concern for holiness, preaching and baptizing the peoples, and seeing pagan nations come to Christ. Its weaknesses (from my perspective) included a growing reliance on Rome and the Pope, a growing unhealthy infatuation with ...more
Ian Chapman
One of the primary contemporary documents of the development of the English nation, even if from a northern english ecclesiastic perspective. Written in a series of connected chapters, there is much on royal houses, churchmen, and some of the commoners. The relationship between the Anglo-Saxons and Celtic neighbours is interestingly shown. For example the story of Irish Bishop Aidan visiting King Oswald, and the king suddenly stopping the young interpreter and starting to speak fluent Gaelic; he ...more
Four stars because it is such an important Early Medieval English source. Surprisingly readable and compelling for a book with a strong Christian message and an author who is obsessed with the correct date for Easter beyond pretty much everything else it seems. Bede would have been a bit of a preachy bore I reckon, but also a font of the best gossip from all the Saxon kingdoms of England. A fascinating glimpse of the orgins of the English.
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Bede (672/673 – 26 May 735), also referred to as Saint Bede or the Venerable Bede (Latin: Bēda Venerābilis), was an English monk at the Northumbrian monastery of Saint Peter at Monkwearmouth and of its companion monastery, Saint Paul's, in modern Jarrow (see Monkwearmouth-Jarrow), both in the Kingdom of Northumbria. He is well known as an author and scholar, and his most famous work, Historia eccl ...more
More about Bede...
The Age of Bede The Ecclesiastical History of the English People/The Greater Chronicle/Letter to Egbert Lives of the Saints Ecclesiastical History, Books I-III Ecclesiastical History, Vol 2: Books 4-5/Lives of the Abbots/Letter to Egbert

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“The present life of man upon earth, O King, seems to me in comparison with that time which is unknown to us like the swift flight of a sparrow through the mead-hall where you sit at supper in winter, with your Ealdormen and thanes, while the fire blazes in the midst and the hall is warmed, but the wintry storms of rain or snow are raging abroad. The sparrow, flying in at one door and immediately out at another, whilst he is within, is safe from the wintry tempest, but after a short space of fair weather, he immediately vanishes out of your sight, passing from winter to winter again. So this life of man appears for a little while, but of what is to follow or what went before we know nothing at all.” 11 likes
“If history records good things of good men, the thoughtful hearer is encouraged to imitate what is good: or if it records evil of wicked men, the devout, religious listener or reader is encouraged to avoid all that is sinful and perverse and to follow what he knows to be good and pleasing to God.” 6 likes
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