Cambridge Library Collection – Medieval History: The History…



Sharon Turner (1768-1847) practised as a solicitor in London, specialising in the law of copyright. As a young man he became enthusiastically involved in the study of Anglo-Saxon and Icelandic literature and history. In 1799-1805 he published this four-volume history, still acknowledged as a turning point in Anglo-Saxon studies and a benchmark in historiography. Turner was elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1800, soon after the first volume appeared. His approach of contrasting ‘Anglo-Saxon freedom’ with ‘the Norman yoke’ (an idea dating from the seventeenth century) held particular appeal at a time of deteriorating political relations with France. Turner’s lasting achievement, however, was to draw public attention to the rich and fascinating material contained in the Anglo-Saxon manuscripts he had studied at the British Museum. This work went through many editions, but was eventually superseded by Kemble’s The Saxons in England (1849, also reissued).

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