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Synopsis

In England in the eighth century, in the midst of the so-called Dark Ages, Offa ruled Mercia, one of the strongest Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. For over 30 years he was the dominant warlord in the territory south of the Humber and the driving force behind the expansion of Mercias power. During that turbulent period he commanded Mercian armies in their struggle against the neighbouring kingdoms of Northumbria and Wessex and against the Welsh tribes.Yet the true story of Offas long reign and of the rise and fall of Mercia are little known although this is one of the most intriguingepisodes in this little-recorded phase of Englands past. It is Chris Peerss task in this new study to uncover the facts about Offa and the other Mercian kings and to set them in the context of English history before the coming of the Danes. He describes how the tribes of middle England were welded together by Penda, one of Offas remarkable predecessors, and how Mercia developed into a cohesive militaristic society which defended itself and preyed on its neighbours. A line of strong kings Wulfhere Aethelred and Aethelbald followed and laid the foundations for the kingdom Offa took over in 757.Warfare came naturally to these men they were born into a warrior tradition and Chris Peers pays particular attention to this key element in Mercian society. Also, of course, he discusses the most famous monument that has come down to us from Offas reign the defensive dyke constructed in the west of England to deter the incursions of the Welsh.His fresh account of this neglected era in English history draws together the results of the latest archaeological research and the sparse documentary evidence that has survived. It makes fascinating reading.

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