Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People is recognized as a masterpiece among the historical literature of medieval England and Europe. Completed in 731, it comprises in a single flowing narrative a coherent history of the conversion of the English peoples to Christianity, and the story of the island kingdoms and churches from the 590s to the early eighth century, prefaced by a sketch of the earlier history of Britain. In 1969 the
Clarendon Press published the new edition in Oxford Medieval Texts, edited by Bertram Colgrave and Sir Roger Mynors. Mynors's masterly text and textual introduction replaced much of Charles Plummer's
great edition of 1896; but the historical notes did not attempt to match in scale and detail Plummer's second volume of commentary. To fill this gap the late Professor J. M. Wallace-Hadrill devoted the last years of his life to a new commentary, one of the finest and most mature fruits of his scholarship - more succinct than Plummer, tauter, more relevant, above all drawing together and adding to the findings of a galaxy of modern scholars. Prepared for the press by
Thomas Charles-Edwards, helped by Patrick Wormald and others, this book completes the new Bede, and is prefaced by a paper characteristic of Professor Wallace-Hadrill on 'Bede and Plummer'.
'J.M. Wallace-Hadrill's work is an example of the refining process that has gone on consistently at the textual level, helping us to appreciate the solidity of judgment of the older scholars and yet also to indicate new lines of thought.'
Times Literary Supplement
`an outstanding work of synthesis and originality ... With admirable conciseness and clarity, Wallace-Hadrill summarizes modern scholarship in a wide variety of fields, from archaeology to medicine ... a fitting legacy from one of England's foremost historians.'
Mary Clayton, University College, Dublin, Review of English Studies
'Professor Wallace-Hadrill's commentary to the HE has a secure future ... he has left us a posthumous legacy that is not only monumental in itself ... but certain of a permanent place among the books indispensable to students of Bede and his age.'
Walter Goffart, University of Toronto, Journal of Ecclesiastical History
'provides a useful overview of post-Plummer Bede scholarship ... the bibliography will surely prove most valuable ... It would also have been a pity to have missed the opportunity to benefit from Wallace-Hadrill's brilliant insight and extraordinary learning ... The serious scholar will surely profit by attentive use of this volume.'
S.E. Kelly, St Catherine's College, Oxford, Notes and Queries, December 1990
`This commentary includes and adds to findings of modern scholars.'
The Medieval World