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The Year 1000


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Offering a delightful, often astonishing portrait of everyday life in Anglo-Saxon England in the year 1000, this wonderfully earthy chronicle, while timed for the end of this millennium, distinguishes itself from the sea of millennial titles by focusing on the end of the last one. Lacey (Sotheby's‘Bidding for Class), a popular British historian, and London-based journalist Danziger (The Orchestra) focus on aspects of daily living. The Anglo-Saxons, a practical, self-contained, fervently superstitious people, were 99% illiterate, yet their language would become their most widespread legacy. Bristol was a slave-trading port, and the use of "bondservants" was a basic underpinning of the rural economy (the Norman invasion of 1066 would replace servitude with feudalism). There was no sugar, but honey was so valued that it became a form of currency. Personal hygiene was almost nonexistent, and most adults died in their 40s. Engla-lond, as the country was called, endured the best and the worst of times, enjoying unmatched prosperity but also falling prey to Viking raids, a menace that King Ethelred (the Unready) exacerbated by paying protection money. The narrative is organized in 12 chapters‘one for each month‘plus a closing chapter assessing the Anglo-Saxon legacy. Prefacing each chapter is a nimble, remarkably modern-looking, secular drawing of laborers' activities reproduced from the Julius Work Calendar, probably created by a cleric working in Canterbury Cathedral around 1020. This is a superb time capsule, and the authors distill a wealth of historical information into brightly entertaining reading. Agent, Curtis Brown. (Feb.)

Authors Lacey (Grace, LJ 9/1/94; Sotheby's, LJ 5/1/98) and Danziger (of the London Independent) have set out to capture what life was like in Anglo-Saxon England at the end of the first millennium. The framework for their story was provided by a priceless written work from that period, "The Julius Work Calendar." Designed to allow readers to keep track of saints' days, the calendar also includes impressionistic sketches that illustrate the common activities of each month and lines of Latin verse in the form of singsong doggerel to illuminate the activities portrayed in the sketches. The authors make use of the sketches and verse to describe each month's activities and in so doing dispel some popular misconceptions about life in late Anglo-Saxon England. For example, in the England of the year 1000 the forests occupied about as much area as they do today, and Anglo-Saxon women, on average, were taller than modern English women. This popular history should appeal to both the general reader and students of the period and is recommended for public and academic libraries.‘Robert James Andrews, Duluth P.L., MN

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