Norton £11.99 (239pp) (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop : 08430 600 030
Barbarians to Angels, By Peter S Wells
Friday 13 November 2009
"The names conjure up images of savagery and destruction," but Wells believes the Visigoths, Huns, Vandals had a bum rap. The Dark Ages were not so dark after all.
Recently excavated in Spitalfields, London, a young woman's grave from AD 350 contained silk from China, an indication that both wealth and trade continued towards the end of the Roman era. When the Romans retreated, Britain was not invaded by hordes of Angles and Saxons.
Far from falling apart, post-Roman society maintained a good diet and a busy economy. Wells suggests that the reversion from stone architecture to buildings of wattle and daub was "a matter of cultural choice rather than a result of impoverishment". Based on Europe-wide archaeology, his assertion of a continuum is wholly persuasive.
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