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Arthur's Britain (1971)

von Leslie Alcock

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519536,508 (3.5)10
We are all familiar with the heroic deeds and enchantments of the legendary tales surrounding King Arthur. But what evidence is there for a real figure beneath the myth and romance? Arthur's Britain assembles a wealth of information about the history of Arthur by delving into the shadowy period in which he lived. Drawing on evidence from written and archaeological sources, Leslie Alcock, who directed the famous excavation at Cadbury Castle in Somerset, England, sifts history from fiction to take us back to life between the fourth and seventh centuries. He also provides fascinating detail on how the Britons actually lived, worshipped, dressed, and fought to uncover the real world and people behind the Arthurian legends.… (mehr)
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Most of the book is spent discussing the various conditions of the Romano-Britons, Picts, Irish, and Angles/Saxons/Jutes in the period of 450-650. Trade and economy, craft, religion, farming, military, etc.
Beyond endorsing it scant attention is actually put into considering Arthurs historical existence.

You'd think after 300 pages of preamble the man could go into a little bit more depth in explaining why he thinks there is a basis.

For example in his discussion of military organization of the different groups for the period he goes into great detail about how an 'army' would have been just 100-300 men citing various examples and interpreting the elliptical and heroic nature of the near-contemporary sources - but then in the conclusion where he gives his case for a historical Arthur he never explains why he attributes him to leading a force of a thousand men.

And I'd be willing to accept that figure when you look at how big Cadbury was compared to every other hill fort of the era whoever was responsible for its reoccupation and refortification had to have a lot of men and resources on a scale unprecedented for the era, but I want to understand how such an unprecedented force and resources were assembled.

So it is a good primer for the sub-Roman Britain period but if you want an analysis of who or what a historical Arthur was it is actually very circumspect, maybe that is just professional caution because we simply do not have the sources or the archaeological record to make more detailed claims.

And that is a real disappointment because Alcock was the last historian to take Arthur seriously, since the 1970s academia has taken a very reductionist view on the matter. "He isn't mentioned in Gildas or Bedes so he didn't exist" is the prevailing attitude. Unless some startling new discovery shows up in a dig they will maintain he did not exist or is a composite.
  LamontCranston | Nov 8, 2021 |
It turned out to be more textbooky than I expected but still a very interesting account of the textual and archeological evidence of life and times in Arthurian Britain. There was precious little about Arthur, though Alcock mostly comes down on the side of his existence. An interesting read, dragged in places and I wish I knew more British geography, but worth the effort.
  amyem58 | Jul 15, 2014 |
A good archaeological look at early 6th Century Britain, with interesting illustration of the Sutton Hoo armour set. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Aug 25, 2013 |
INDEX; BIBLIOGRAPHY; MAPS; PHOTOGRAPHS; ILLUSTRATED
  saintmarysaccden | May 9, 2013 |
What a thorough look at how the literature of King Arthur ties into archaeology around Britain. This book is more skeptical that there is any real connection between King Arthur and the history of Britain. ( )
1 abstimmen MorgannaKerrie | Aug 6, 2006 |
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AutorennameRolleArt des AutorsWerk?Status
Alcock, LeslieAutorHauptautoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
Hofer, EvelynCover photographCo-Autoreinige Ausgabenbestätigt

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It may well be that apparent absence of settlement names derived from Primitive Welsh is proof only that the Englishman's traditional inability to pronounce a foreign language correctly is a trait of very long standing.
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We are all familiar with the heroic deeds and enchantments of the legendary tales surrounding King Arthur. But what evidence is there for a real figure beneath the myth and romance? Arthur's Britain assembles a wealth of information about the history of Arthur by delving into the shadowy period in which he lived. Drawing on evidence from written and archaeological sources, Leslie Alcock, who directed the famous excavation at Cadbury Castle in Somerset, England, sifts history from fiction to take us back to life between the fourth and seventh centuries. He also provides fascinating detail on how the Britons actually lived, worshipped, dressed, and fought to uncover the real world and people behind the Arthurian legends.

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