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Ecclesiastical History of the English People

3.83  ·  Rating Details ·  3,386 Ratings  ·  143 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
Paperback, 400 pages
Published September 27th 1990 by Penguin Classics (first published 731)
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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
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
Jo Woolfardis
It depends on why you read this. Historically it's extremely important. Reference-wise, it's a huge help, not only for religious things but the time-period itself in English history. Literature-wise it's not the best thing you can spend your time on and if you're on it for escapism then you're an idiot and you need to get off your phone and go outside and hug a tree.
Dec 16, 2008 Tess rated it really liked it
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
Ephraim Lawson Bowick
Dec 23, 2014 Ephraim Lawson Bowick rated it it was amazing
A most magnificent book...or should I say books?—St. Bede's history is five books in one! If you want to study English ecclesiastical history up to the mid 8th-century, this is your go-to text. I am so thankful for such a text that records the history of righteous men, women, and right-believing rulers to have survived.

I also find it incredibly interesting how many times St. Bede alludes to Virgil's Aeneid throughout the five volumes.

Read it! You'll feel like a wizard in his library whilst doi
May 25, 2013 Neil rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: anglo-saxon
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
What Is History? Edward Hallett Carr asked in the title of his famous book. Nothing objective he argued, saying, “The belief in a hard core of historical facts existing objectively and independently of the interpretation of the historian is a preposterous fallacy, but one which it is very hard to eradicate.” Several decades later, Richard J. Evans responded with In Defence of History and argued the opposite.

It is not taking sides in this ongoing debate to say that once upon a time, what we now k
Feb 12, 2017 Gary rated it did not like it
If two brothers had married two sisters and one of the brothers and sisters have died can the survivors marry? I liked the book when it dwelt with all important questions such as that. I liked it when Bede would say that we go to church on Sunday because that is the day the lord arose and it has nothing to do with the Sabbath commandment. Also, entwined within the story there is an interesting history of the early development of Great Britain, who would have known that Pope Gregory would have be ...more
Kathy Weitz
Oct 05, 2016 Kathy Weitz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Double treat reading and discussing this with both our Humanities II class at Providence Prep and with our Mother Culture Community this fall. I posted a link: reading guide at The Reading Mother.

A few commonplace entries:

Should history tell of good men and their good estate, the thoughtful listener is spurred on to imitate the good; should it record the evil ends of wicked men, no less effectually the devout and earnest listener or reader is kindled to eschew what is harmful and perverse, and
Joseph R.
Jan 08, 2013 Joseph R. rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 02, 2011 Jacquelyn rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 26, 2009 Hilary rated it it was ok
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
Emily Carroll
Jan 22, 2015 Emily Carroll rated it really liked it
“For 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.” Here Bede clearly states as his thesis that his goal of the Ecclesiastical History of the English People was to use history as a tool to encourage and teach morality. Bede’s History is his best k ...more
Adele Jones
Aug 20, 2013 Adele Jones rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
The Gatekeeper
Nov 23, 2008 The Gatekeeper rated it it was ok
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).
Nicola Griffith
May 07, 2012 Nicola Griffith rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourite
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.
Angela Mortimer
Jan 24, 2013 Angela Mortimer rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
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.
Cristine Braddy
Nov 12, 2015 Cristine Braddy rated it really liked it
I read this with my daughter for medieval literature. It was an intriguing look into the early history of people of Great Britain but it was also an interesting look into the Catholic Church during this time period.
May 28, 2012 Henry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Sep 24, 2015 Annette rated it it was amazing
I had planned to read this book ages ago. It has sat in a tall pile of nonfiction books to be read. I'm eager to share this review with you because the book is significant.
If you are a nonfiction reader of British history then you must read this book. Further, it is an important book to purchase for your book shelf.
If you are a fan of historical fiction I encourage you to purchase this book for reading and reference. I've read several historical fiction books on Anglo-Saxon history. For example:
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
Joseph Rizzo
May 02, 2013 Joseph Rizzo rated it liked it
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
I know it's an ecclesiastical history but, I would have liked less miracles and more anglo-saxons and politics.
interesting at first (SO MANY MIRACLES, GODDAMN), then tedious
Kyle  Tresnan
Jan 28, 2014 Kyle Tresnan rated it it was ok
Peter Ellwood
Dec 28, 2016 Peter Ellwood rated it it was ok
It’s a difficult work to rate in a way. It’s the definitive book on the history of the seventh century and before, and you simply have no choice but to read it if you are interested in early history. As a summary of the comings and goings of ecclesiasticals over that period it’s probably unparalleled, a five stars-plus.

That said, it’s not all that easy to glean the history. As the title implies, the centre of gravity is not unreasonably the development of the church; and quite a lot of the histo
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
Feb 27, 2017 Glyn rated it really liked it
A lively translation of the works of the Venerable Bede. This offers a valuable insight into a little understood era of English/British history.

Unsurprisingly given his monastic background, Bede sees everything with an ecclesiastic bent which gives a black and white morality to every character he records. People who are of the faith are good anyone else is either wrong, pagan or evil. Occasionally a mixture of the above. Modern readers may well be slightly bemused by the sheer anger and irritati
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
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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
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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.” 21 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.” 7 likes
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