This is a list of those books which I have found to be most useful on many travels, mental and physical, through the landscapes of the Dark Ages, and which might be of interest to readers wanting to continue their own journeys of discovery. Some are intrinsically readable; others I use for reference. Each one is a monument in its own right of scholarship and writing. Useful editions of some of the main historical sources are cited in the Notes, pages 433–442.
LESLIE ALCOCK: Arthur’s Britain, Penguin (1971). There is a 2nd edition of 1989. Still the best overall guide to the archaeology of the Early Medieval period.
—— Kings and warriors, craftsmen and priests, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland (2003). The opposite end of the reductionist spectrum from Arthur’s Britain: encyclopaedic coverage of Northern Britain in the Early Medieval period, but not a narrative read.
—— ‘By South Cadbury is that Camelot…’ Excavations at Cadbury Castle 1966–1970, Thames and Hudson (1972). Riveting account of how excavation was done in the 1960s
STEVEN BASSETT (ed.): The Origins of Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms, Leicester University Press (1990 ). An impressive overview by experts in their own regions.
KEN DARK: Britain and the End of the Roman Empire, History Press (2002). I can’t agree with some of Ken’s conclusions, but it’s a thought-provoking and valuable thesis.
NANCY EDWARDS: The Archaeology of Early Medieval Ireland, Routledge (1996). A very useful short summary of the complexities of the Irish material.
THOMAS CHARLES-EDWARDS: Wales and the Britons 350–1064, Oxford University Press (2014). A hugely impressive and comprehensive scholarly look at the fortunes of the British nations in the Early Medieval period. Fascinating; not bedtime reading.
JAMES FRASER: From Caledonia to Pictland: Scotland to 795, Edinburgh University Press (2009). Sometimes I don’t recognise the North Britain portrayed by Fraser, but it’s a serious account, and current.
W. G. HOSKINS: The Making of the English Landscape, Book Club Associates (1981). A classic.
LLOYD and JENNIFER LAING: A Guide to the Dark Age Remains in Britain, Constable (1979). It is now quite out of date and there are a few key omissions; but it’s still the Dark Age traveller’s Baedeker.
RICHARD MORRIS: Churches in the Landscape, Phoenix Giant (1989). The seminal work: beautifully written and indispensable.
HYWEL WYN OWEN and RICHARD MORGAN: Dictionary of the Place-names of Wales, Gomer Press (2007). Definitive.
OLIVER RACKHAM: The History of the Countryside, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (2000). The late woodland historian’s splendid take on our landscapes: witty, quirky, intelligent.
PAULINE STAFFORD (ed.): A Companion to the Early Middle Ages. Britain and Ireland c.500–c.1100, Wiley Blackwell (2013). A collection of authoritative summary articles on all sorts of aspects of society and narrative history.
CHARLES THOMAS: The Early Christian Archaeology of North Britain, Oxford University Press (1971). Long out of date and in need of an upgrade; but I find myself going back to it time and time again. Compelling, passionate and insightful.
VICTOR WATTS, JOHN INSLEY and MARGARET GELLING (eds): The Cambridge Dictionary of English Place-Names, Cambridge University Press (2011). The latest edition of this comprehensive guide to place names in England. The standard work of reference if you can’t get at or your area has no coverage by the individual county English Place Name Society volumes.
DOROTHY WHITELOCK: English Historical Documents Volume I: c.500–1042. 2nd Edition, Eyre Methuen (1979). The definitive collection in English of our earliest history.