In Search of the Dark Ages, Paperback Book
3 out of 5 (3 ratings)


This edition of Michael Wood's groundbreaking first book explores the fascinating and mysterious centuries between the Romans and the Norman Conquest of 1066.

In Search of the Dark Ages vividly conjures up some of the most famous names in British history, such as Queen Boadicea, leader of a terrible war of resistance against the Romans, and King Arthur, the 'once and future king', for whose riddle Wood proposes a new and surprising solution.

Here too, warts and all, are the Saxon, Viking and Norman kings who laid the political foundations of England - Offa of Mercia, Alfred the Great, Athelstan, and William the Conqueror, whose victory at Hastings in 1066 marked the end of Anglo-Saxon England.

Reflecting recent historical, textual and archaeological research, this revised edition of Michael Wood's classic book overturns preconceptions of the Dark Ages as a shadowy and brutal era, showing them to be a richly exciting and formative period in the history of Britain. 'With In Search of the Dark Ages, Michael Wood wrote the book for history on TV.' The Times 'Michael Wood is the maker of some of the best TV documentaries ever made on history and archaeology.' Times Literary Supplement


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Ebury Publishing
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: British & Irish history
  • ISBN: 9780563522768

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Showing 1 - 3 of 3 reviews.

Review by

The best of several books I read recently on Middle Ages history, this focuses on one character in each chapter. Particularly interesting: Queen Bodicea and whether King Arthur was based on a real guy. (I'll save you some time: no.) It's based on a BBC miniseries by the same name, which makes it sound like it can't be very good, but surprise! It is.

Review by

Michael Wood's In Search of the Dark Ages is a survey of British history from Boudica to William the Conqueror, looking at the formation of a British -- or English? it's not always terribly clear which he's interested in -- identity. Obviously, he has to do a quick whip past subjects that whole books have been written about (some of which I've read), so it isn't written in amazing detail, but it's a decent overview.<br/><br/>It was, however, nigh on ruined for me by the repeated use of the word 'barbarians' and the concept of the 'Third World'. He can't seem to decide whether he's using the word barbarians ironically or not; one minute he's saying that they were unorganised, lawless, without any culture, the next he's using the word in inverted commas with a hint of criticism of that idea. One minute they're tactical and well-organised, the next a howling mob who <I>naturally</i> get beaten by the Romans. And he uses that word again of various different cultures, so you have to wonder what exactly he thinks it means. Anyone who doesn't fit right into his narrative of a British/English identity?

Review by

I like Michael Wood's work. I'll go ahead and damn him with the praise that his summation of history and archaeology is "accessible". I have no doubt that he's passionate, thorough, articulate and competent (more damning praise). Still, I didn't enjoy this book. I couldn't wait to be done with it and if you quizzed me on its contents, I don't think I'd do very well. This likely has much to do with my familiarity with the subject matter. If the names Offa, Athelstan and Ethelred are already quite familiar to you, you'll make out rather well. If not, they may seem like little more than an anonymous procession of Anglo-Saxon kings who set about unifying England when not getting harassed by Danish vikings. Things come alive when Wood describes the battle of Hastings. It's gripping stuff, but was, for me, too little too late. My ignorance of pre-Norman English history is largely to blame for my dissatisfaction. Still, after 250 pages I remain fairly benighted. <br /><br /><br /><br />So, not a great read. But Mr. Wood is not entirely at fault.