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A History of the English Church and People

3.82  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,095 Ratings  ·  126 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, 364 pages
Published 1988 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
Saoirse Sterling
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.
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
Ephraim Lawson Bowick
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
Dec 16, 2008 Tess rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 31, 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
May 16, 2009 Hilary rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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 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
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
Aug 02, 2011 Jacquelyn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Emily Carroll
“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
Cristine Braddy
Nov 12, 2015 Cristine Braddy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Adele Jones
Aug 20, 2013 Adele Jones rated it really liked it
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
May 07, 2012 Nicola Griffith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
The Gatekeeper
Dec 18, 2008 The Gatekeeper rated it it was ok  ·  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
Jan 25, 2013 Angela Mortimer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
William Korn
Jun 20, 2014 William Korn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, religion
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
Mar 07, 2014 Shawn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 28, 2012 Henry rated it it was amazing
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.
Kyle  Tresnan
I know it's an ecclesiastical history but, I would have liked less miracles and more anglo-saxons and politics.
Alison Giles
Apr 18, 2015 Alison Giles rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is not an easy read by any means and it's not an entertaining read, and that's just it. It's a record of the early history of the English Church in England. Full of information from those so called 'dark ages' which don't seem to be that dark at all. It is written from his religious perspective and written many years after things have occurred yet that doesn't mean that it is not an important book. I treasured some of the information about attitudes to women, Romans, Vikings, other invaders ...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
May 28, 2014 Howard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
interesting at first (SO MANY MIRACLES, GODDAMN), then tedious
Sam Hickey
While it would be a lie to say I found Bede's history to be a riveting experience, I still consider it a largely informative one. Bede's history is one of the most extensive primary sources we have on British history before and during the time of the Anglo-Saxons, with it chronicling the first contact of Rome with the British isles, up to the year 731 just prior to Bede's death. What with it being an "ecclesiastical history", it is obviously mainly concerned with the early history of the English ...more
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:
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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.” 14 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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