Acclaimed author Robert Lacey (Majesty, Ford: The Man and the Machine) and award-winning London Sunday Times journalist Danny Danziger form a winning collaborative team with The Year 1000: What Life Was Like at the Turn of the First Millennium: An Englishman's World. Composed of 12 chapters inspired by the Julius Work Calendar's "Labours of the Months," this slim volume is a gem, a peek into early medieval times that maintains a light and readable tone throughout.
From tales of Anglo-Saxon conquest to the description of back-door privies, Lacey and Danziger peel away layers of misinformation and ignorance about life a thousand years ago without suffocating the reader under metric tons of names, dates and facts. Social customs, religious conversions, the evolution of the English language and first millenial personalities are brought vividly to life with a minimum of well-chosen words. A few interesting tidbits:
- people on the bottom rungs of the feudal ladder may not have been altogether unhappy, may even have been eager to serve their lords, Monty Python sketches to the contrary notwithstanding
- women often held as much property and influence as men
- the poor had the help of hallucinogenic "crazy bread" to get through the lean midsummer months before the crops could be harvested
Bawdy double-intendred riddles have their place in The Year 1000 right alongside monastic scripts questioning the world's future at the turning of the first millennium. Illuminated in the medieval sense by drawings taken from the Julius Work Calendar, this charming little history book transports the readers back to a quieter (but far stinkier) time, and gives them a taste of Middle-Ages English life, failure, triumph and death.