The latest biography of the Anglo-Saxon monarch who united the English and Danish crowns to forge a North Sea empire. Historian Timothy Bolton offers a fascinating reappraisal of one of the most misunderstood of the Anglo-Saxon kings, Cnut, the powerful Danish warlord who conquered England and created a North Sea empire in the eleventh century. This seminal biography draws from a wealth of written and archaeological sources to provide the most detailed accounting to date of the life and accomplishments of a remarkable figure in European history, a forward-thinking warrior-turned-statesman who created a new Anglo-Danish regime through designed internationalism.
- Timoth Bolton
Right , first things first , King Canute was the monarch who was reputed to have stood in the sea, Caligula like, and ordered the waves back . However when this fable was written many many years after his death it was not an illustration of this Lords megalomania but an example of his magisterial humility for he was showing his vassals that he was not above God and his powers were only temporal, allegedly, for there are no records surviving of this event in history.
That is the main problem here ,is how do you write a biography of someone who has left very little accurate prime source information behind for posterity? I believe the answer is to pick over the bones of previous books, archives and papers and provide and argument for what you believe these documents were really trying to say. Thus you end up with a very scholarly book with tons of footnotes, references to other material and pages of pages in the index for you to cross reference . I believe that this book was meant to be a mid road between an academic presentation whilst also being accessible for the " average man on the Clapham omnibus " Well I have never travelled on a bus in this particular London borough and that's probably why i couldn't make head nor tale of the writing .
The text does not flow in any fluid way, its full of reference to other materiel and gets lost in the minutiae of telling the story. I will lay my cards on the table I could only read the preface, introduction and three chapters before i gave up. I would have binned this book after the first chapter if I hadn't got to review it . Am I too harsh? Probably, but I believe that if it doesn't capture you by chapter one and becomes too much of an effort to read one is wasting one's time . Not a reading book more of a text book for the degree student who needs just to pull out a few quotes and acknowledgements . Which is such a shame as I was terribly excited to get this for review at first .
Two mushroom heads.