In The History of the English People 1000–1154, Henry of Huntingdon tells the story of the decline of the English kingdom, the Norman invasion, and the establishment of Norman rule after the victory at the Battle of Hastings. He chronicles the reigns of each king from William the Conqueror to Stephen. Henry includes every aspect of medieval life: murder, courtly intrigue, treachery, miracles, and saints. His work contains the first written record of Cnut confronting the ocean’s waves and the death of Henry I from eating too many lampreys. The author’s overarching interpretation of history is that man’s pride and glory are worthless, since man is nothing without God.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Henry’s work, especially his account of the 1097 crusade. I thought his comments interesting on the miraculous comets and unusual moons. He treats these events almost in a scientific way without attributing a supernatural reason to them. I appreciate the fact that he did not sugar-coat the lives of the nobles and royalty. He includes vivid details of battles and castle sieges. That he pauses to address the reader directly made me feel as if I, too, were part of the storytelling, and that made it easier to lose myself in his narrative. This easy read is an excellent primary source for any historian’s library. I purchased my own copy and will definitely return to this book in the future for entertaining tales to share in my classroom.
– Hannah S. Bowers
Huntingdon, Henry of. The History of the English People 1000–1154. Translated by Diana Greenway. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.