Book Review : Athelstan – The Making of England

Athelstan: The Making of EnglandAthelstan: The Making of England by Tom Holland
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A good brief overview of a little known monarch in English History.

Tom Holland’s style of writing can be a bit florid at times and you may need to re-read paragraphs to get the sense of where he’s going with the narrative sometimes.

On the whole though a very interesting overview of Athelstan and his ‘new concept’ of England as a realm.
(the Penguin Monarch books are generally 100 pages or less)

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About The Penguin Monarch Series …
The Penguin Monarchs Series is a series of 45 books, all of between 80-100 pages long, providing overviews of the each British Monarch.

Penguin has brought together some of the country’s best historians to write the “innovative, provocative histories of Britain’s rulers”, and each book is illustrated by original, newly commissioned portraits of each monarch.

Book Synopsis

‘Official’ Book Description

The formation of England occurred against the odds: an island divided into rival kingdoms, under savage assault from Viking hordes. But, after King Alfred ensured the survival of Wessex and his son Edward expanded it, his grandson Athelstan inherited the rule of both Mercia and Wessex, conquered Northumbria and was hailed as Rex totius Britanniae: ‘King of the whole of Britain’.

Tom Holland recounts this extraordinary story with relish and drama, transporting us back to a time of omens, raven harbingers and blood-red battlefields. As well as giving form to the figure of Athelstan – devout, shrewd, all too aware of the precarious nature of his power, especially in the north – he introduces the great figures of the age, including Alfred and his daughter Aethelflaed, ‘Lady of the Mercians’, who brought Athelstan up at the Mercian court. Making sense of the family rivalries and fractious conflicts of the Anglo-Saxon rulers, Holland shows us how a royal dynasty rescued their kingdom from near-oblivion and fashioned a nation that endures to this day.