John Gillingham

John Gillingham a senior lecturer in the Department of International History at the London School of Economics, has written books on Richard the Lionheart and the Wars of the Roses, and is the co-editor of Granada’s Historical Atlas of Britain.

Anglo-Saxon Aptitudes

John Gillingham, 17 November 1983

As a unified, organised state England has a very long history indeed – more than a thousand years of continuous existence, so far. This, writes James Campbell, is the defining contrast between England and the other great European states. Despite some redrawing of county boundaries in 1974, most of the administrative geography of England remains today much as it was in the tenth and 11th centuries. No other European country can point to anything like this. Though the country was conquered by Duke William of Normandy in 1066 the structures of the English state survived – and if the main point of governmental institutions is to perpetuate themselves, then those which the Anglo-Saxons founded have been remarkably successful. The six centuries of Anglo-Saxon rule witnessed more than just the emergence of a stable political system, however. This long period saw the English language firmly established, so firmly indeed that the centuries of dominance by a French-speaking élite after 1066 proved, in the end, to be insufficient to root it out. It also saw the establishment of Christianity in England. This made little difference to men’s moral values: but in other ways it involved a radical cultural transformation. It meant, for example, the coming of the book and of building in stone. As Patrick Wormald suggests, these are changes the significance of which should be understood by an age which has itself seen the advent of the microchip and pre-stressed concrete. In government, in art and in literature the Anglo-Saxons showed astonishingly creative aptitudes. For anyone who wishes to understand the broad sweep of English history, Anglo-Saxon society is an important and fascinating subject. And Campbell’s is an important and fascinating book. It is also a finely produced and, at times, a very beautiful book.–

Until​ our recent discontents England had never succumbed to doctrinal nationalism. Absent from English history was the obsessiveness found in many countries across Europe about the recovery of...

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The Nazi Miracle

Alan Milward, 23 January 1986

In the early summer of 1931, as the storm centre of the century’s worst depression roared back towards a Germany where already 4.5 million people were out of work, the Nazi Party for the...

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Medieval Fictions

Stuart Airlie, 21 February 1985

Few images from Medieval Europe are as familiar, or as potent, as that of the armoured knight on horseback, riding off in quest of adventure. It is an image that has inspired varied imaginative...

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