(Review) Ecclesiastical History of the English People by Bede

Publication Date: Written in AD 731. Penguin edition 1991.
Publisher: Penguin Classics.
Genre: British history, Middle Ages, Anglo-Saxon period.
Pages: 400.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: 5 stars for excellent.

Ecclesiastical History of the English People holds a preface by Bede and his five books on English history. Additional material is Bede's Letter To Egbert and Cuthbert's Letter On The Death Of Bede. Notes, Genealogies, and maps end the book.
An introduction by the translator, D. H. Farmer, begins the book.

Bede (born in AD 673 and died in AD 735) finished Ecclesiastical History of the English People in AD 731. Copies were made and were read extensively. The first printing of the book was in 1480.

Further links on Bede:
The Venerable Bede, Durham World Heritage Site

Bede, from New Advent, Catholic Encyclopedia
The World According To Bede
BBC History
Bede the Venerable, Priest, Monk, Scholar, from Justus Anglican
Fordham University

I had planned to read this book ages ago. It has sat in a tall pile of nonfiction books to be read. I'm eager to share this review with you because the book is significant.
If you are a nonfiction reader of British history then you must read this book. Further, it is an important book to purchase for your book shelf.
If you are a fan of historical fiction I encourage you to purchase this book for reading and reference. I've read several historical fiction books on Anglo-Saxon history. For example: Edwin: High King of Britain and Oswald: Return of the King all by Edoardo Albert. In each of Albert's books, I am able to utilize Bede's book to read his account of these great men.
The Ecclesiastical History of the English People is considered the first record of Anglo-Saxon England. It was finished in AD 731.
Ecclesiastical refers to the church and not secular. This book was written in regards to church history.
Bede was a monk. He lived in Jarrow, northeastern England.
My favorite period in British history is from the time the Romans left until William the Conqueror's reign. I enjoy reading other periods in British history: Henry II, Edward I, Edward III, Edward IV, Tudor era, Stuart era, Victoria, World War I, and World War II. But it is the Anglo-Saxon age that thrills me!
My copy is a Penguin Classic. It holds an introduction by D. H. Farmer. He shares information about Bede's life, the theme of the book, and it's significance for readers of history. In addition, Farmer shares Bede's negative attitude towards the Celtic Christians.
After the introduction is a preface written by Bede.
Bede's chronology of British history is broken down into five books, with multiple chapters in each. The last two chapters are letters.
The first book and chapter is on Albion, the island that will be invaded by the Romans. The last chapter is "Cuthbert's Letter On The Death Of Bede."
I enjoyed reading the chapters on Augustine's mission to bring Christianity to England. Christianity had come to Britain before, but not in the dramatic way (Roman Catholicism) as when Augustine brought the message of Christ and began settling churches. He worked to break the old belief system of the people.
But King Ethelbert of Kent did not coerce the people to accept this new belief.
While the king was pleased at their faith and conversion, it is said that he would not compel anyone to accept Christianity; for he had learned from his instructors and guides to salvation that the service of Christ must be accepted freely and not under compulsion. Page 77.
Book two through five hold the stories of Ethelbert, Edwin, Oswald, Hilda, and Cadwalla.
Further stories are of nuns, children, bishops, miracles, festivals, the Pict people, Pope Gregory, the Irish, famines, and an abbot named Columba.


  1. Thanks for the excellent review, Annette. I have this book sitting on my shelf and I'm excited to read it now!

  2. Thank you. It really is an interesting book!


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