This is part of a series of counterfactual histories looking at different aspects of British history. Here Vennings looks at the Anglo-Saxon age, from the end of Roman rule and the shadowy conquest or settlement period, through the period of competing kingdoms, the unification of England and ending with the events of 1066 and their immediate aftermath.
There are a number of different approaches to counter-factual history. I've recently read books that start with a single big chance (what if Rome hadn't fallen?) and then trace the possible consequences of that single chance over a long period of time, or that focus on one major campaign or battle and examine how it might have ended different. The approach taken here is to start each chapter from the real-world historical position and examine a large number of possible alternatives, normally only looking forward a generation or so. As a result none of the speculations are too wild or based on too many steps. Very few of the alternatives are examined in any great detail, which for me avoids a major pitfall of some alternative history - treating a possible alternative as if there is real evidence that could be examined. Vennings has also avoided the temptation of building a string of alternatives, each relying on a previous change to be possible. The one major exception comes in 1066 where quite a few of the scenarios rely on changes in events up to fifty years earlier, but in this case it does serve more of a purpose, looking at various alternative heirs to Edward the Confessor or different possible outcomes of Cnut's invasion.
This book serves two valuable historical purposes - first to remind us how little we actually know about some of the events of this period, especially the early conquest period, and second to remind us how big an element chance played in the rise and fall of the various Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, the eventual unification of England and the various eleventh century conquests. It is also an entertaining read, taking us through nearly seven hundred years of alternative histories at a rapid pace.
Chapter 1 - Early Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms to c.800
Part I: The Setting: An Era of Personal Leadership and Creation of New Kingdoms
Part II: The Kingdoms: Real and Alternative Courses of Development
Chapter 2: The Post-Roman British Kingdoms
Chapter 3: Which Anglo-Saxon State could have Triumphed Long Term in the Seventh to Ninth Centuries
Chapter 4: The Vikings and After: 866 and All That
Chapter 5: The Kingdom of Wessex/ England from the Reign of Alfred
Chapter 6: 1066: The Fall of Anglo-Saxon England and its Aftermath
Author: Timothy Venning
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military