What life was like at the turn of the First Millennium

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Last updated: April 3, 2019

Recollection of the past, sweet or sour is a heart-warming and mind-soothing exercise, when the present state of affairs is sound.

But unfortunately, for the humankind, the present standard of living and standard of life (for the majority of the people) are not sound. The materialistic civilization, the industrial and Internet revolution have improved lifestyles in many areas, but the negative aspect on the overall psyche of the human beings is noticeable. Most of the people suffer from depression, anxiety and host of diseases unheard of in the recent past. Comparing the life and social conditions is a welcome exercise, even though the society can never think of reverting to 1000 years old conditions adopt those modes. But a general review is possible as to where we have gone wrong and whether those wrongs can be righted in the present set-up.Summary of the book, including the author’s main thesis and the evidence used to support it.No, it is not the world of fantasy, and some of the details and the then prevailing conditions are simply astonishing.

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You get the details of the life in Anglo-Saxon England at the end f the first millennium, and they are facts derived from authentic records of the era like “The Julius Work Calendar.” The calendar also includes imaginative sketches that give details of the common activities of each month. Some verses also describe such activities. No room is left for doubt and vague assumptions.

Some stunning facts are explained like forest cover almost remaining the same today as is existed 1000 years ago. The Anglo-Saxon women were taller than the modern English women. But nothing is mentioned about the high-heeled sandals the English women now use, to make up for the shortfall in the height! Was the Anglo-Saxon Society really backward?No so much. Men and women were neither backward nor forward, they were different.

With the astonishing details, the authors drag 10 centuries old history closer to you. Some of the stunning revelations are, brain surgeons existed at that time (it is reasonable to assume that brain tumors also existed), property developers did brisk business, the pick of journalism-the gossip columnists- were present as well. People were happy without the sugar, diabetes must have been the rare disease, the monks were not allowed to speak, and yet they communicated, and explanation has been given why July was termed as the hungry month. The Julius Works Calendar, upon which they heavily depended to collect information, contained lots of authentic details related to kings, saints, revelers and laborers; the existence of lingering paganism and widely practiced Christian Faith!With the absence of “Fast Food.,” the diet 1000 years ago had to be different.

The most popular items of the day, on which Business Empires have been built today, like tomato, spinach, tea, potato, coffee and surprisingly chicken did not exist. Farming life was tough, in the absence of mechanization, the labor was mostly manual, and hygiene did not command the respect it carries today. The residences were dirty; dung from animals was part of the sanitation arrangements. But the major culprits the make the life of humans miserable and deadly as the case may be like, cigarettes, the noise pollution by the never-ending stream of vehicles, absence of cars and airplanes thankfully did not exist. Clothes were ordinary, fashion designers were not there and do you believe? The queen in chess gathered additional power after Queen Elizabeth surfaced several centuries later. Event-sensationalizing is absent in the book, Super analysis is not there.

It is a sort of popular history relating to the common man and aristrocracy- how things around impacted the life. It provides details about the medieval life in England, in the larger context.The challenges of the daily life then are highlighted. That the Anglo-Saxons were 99% illiterate is a startling revelation. Slave-trading was accepted as part of the commerce, and part of the economic index. One important observation from the point of view of health! With no white sugar, honey was an important commodity.

It was a sort of a barter currency. The mortality rate was another surprise of the era. It was just 40%.England was called Engla-lond. The narrative in the book is organized into 12 chapters, one for each month. 1000 was certainly not a backward era. Middle Age Englishmen were pragmatic people.

Tough and intelligent! Different months have different connotations. February relates to Geography, August for medicines, November for gender relationships. Their approach to issues doesn’t look like superstitious.

It must have some scientific basis; only more research is needed to find out more details. Just because some of the so-called modern amenities were not there in 1000, one can not say that people lived a dismal life. Their understanding of nature was their asset to live life by conforming to the laws of nature. An interesting example is provided by the authors. With no tooth paste, did they have rotten yellow teeth? On the contrary, their dental health was perfect; most of them had sparkling white teeth, as white sugar, that is believed to cause most damaging consequences as for the health of humanity, was not part of  the various items of diet of the people then.My opinion/ assessment of his main point: Agreement or disagreement and why?This is not totally a historical document. This not a work of fiction either. Then what is it? The search for answer to this question makes the reading a pleasure.

The book is the “biography” of people, who lived 1000 years ago. . How would the Earth look like, if you rotate it a thousand years back?—the book is all about that. The authors make you walk through the Middle Age. The authors have drawn upon the writings of Archbishop Wulfstan, so the authenticity of the details can be relied upon.

Frankly speaking, this is not a serious type of book for student of any branch of knowledge or a worthy book to be prescribed to be part of the school/college syllabus. It is a fun book, but the information provided and the details given, issues howsoever small, are authentic. The book is no literary gimmick, with an eye on sales and market.The year 1000 has received very special treatment, it has been dissected properly into months and description of the daily life of village was quite interesting. The ‘round-the-clock’ description of the year in relation to the seasons brings the lively picture before the reader’s mind. The main point mentioned by the authors and the important service the book renders to the Anglo-Saxon history is that it removes misgivings as for the cultural values of the 1000.

For many of the valuable chronicles were destroyed, by Normans whose objective was to inflict the ultimate damage to the native culture. The chaos that followed Henry the Eight’s rejection of the Roman Church! That unabated violence and the total annihilation of the invaluable manuscripts in Englisc, the mother of modern English Language! The visual art of the English Churches also suffered extensive damage. The book therefore, throws fresh light on the cultural life then, and therefore the authors have done a yeoman service to the cause of Anglo-Saxon history and revived the interest about its richness and peculiar traits of the race. I am in complete agreement with the assertions of the authors as for this important issue.Summary of the book strengths and weaknesses, with the final assessment of the book:The book is written in an easy conversational style, providing small and big details. Superstitions were in vogue 1000 years also, as they are very much prevalent today. For example thunder on Sunday, was the signal for increased death rate among nuns and monks.

Such details can not contribute to the strength of the book, but they are not part of the weakness either. They are just interesting details to provide the reader with a clear picture. They make the reading a pleasurable activity.

The authors have given us a very interesting novel. The theme of the book and the author’s attitude towards the theme, both evoke curiosity. The description is matter of fact. The level of detachment achieved by the authors in the book is commendable.

The authors do not take one on a sentimental journey but situations manifest clearly, grow and attain new dimensions. The book deserves an outstanding position on account of this approach. It serves the purpose for which it has been written. The book does not stand for any particular conviction.

The subject matter of the novel is new, the narrations beautiful and therefore the book deserves a special mention. The authors have dealt with this new topic in a lucid style and as the story related to 1000 progresses, it becomes highly interesting, and maintains its ground and reality as for the purpose for which the book is intended for. The author’s final summation about the book is absolutely perfect. It reads thus. “They were practical, self-contained folk, not given to excessive agonizing or self-analysis.

They knew how to make and mend, and when their day’s work was done, they could also be very good company, since one of the most important things they had learned in their lives was how to entertain themselves. The knowledge in their heads had rarely come directly from books – they had learned everything by observing and imitating, usually by standing alongside an adult who was almost certainly their father or mother, and by memorizing everything they needed to survive and enrich their lives.”


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