Exploring the Dark Ages

Researching a historical drama can be like descending into a bottomless pit.  Unless you have a clear grasp of a story to cling onto, it is easy to fall forever on an endless quest for detail, and the deeper you go, the more it seems like there is no chance of hitting bottom.

This is particularly true of researching the Dark Ages -- which in Britain roughly corresponded to everything that came immediately after the Romans, sometime around 500 A.D., to the recovery of recorded history in the Middle Ages Renaissance in the 1300s.

Even the most learned scholars, who have spent their lives digging through the relics, can only make calculated and quite often contradictory guesses at how people lived, spoke, ate, dressed and related to each other back then.  Hence, Hollywood clichés have taken the place of knowledge, as seen in our selection of ‘spear movies’ elsewhere on this site.

But historical research in preparation for a journey back in time can be essential, or at least a great exercise in gathering details that can inform characters, textures and a sense of place. All this added fuel to our imaginations, because -- as Arthur C. Clarke once noted -- the truth, as always, will be far stranger.

1066: The Year of the Conquest by David Howarth

Harold and William by Benton Rain Patterson

The Godwins by Frank Barlow

1066: The Year of Three Battles by Frank McLynn

Battle Abbey -- English Heritage website

Bayeux Tapestry -- Museum of Reading website

Bayeux Tapestry Museum -- French website

Battle 1066 -- a history fan’s website