Review: Offa and the Mercian Wars, Chris Peers

Rating: 2 out of 5

This is in general an alright book, but entirely misleading in its title or content. Offa features in the introduction and then skips back in for about ten-twenty pages in the middle of the book, after which the author goes back to describing a general history of Mercia — more on this below. The book also comes across not knowing where it wants to lie on the scholarly spectrum with plenty of references to academic work and minimal evaluation of these.

Given that the author decries the present-day use of the name of Offa to sell products and advertise places, it is quite sad that he has done the same with this book. It is, more accurately, a history of Mercia, with more emphasis on Penda and Aethelflaed than Offa. This, overall, leads me to conclude that either the author thought Mercia as a name would not sell or that he liked the idea of writing a book on Offa but then gave up because in reality the 7th and 9th centuries are a lot more interesting. I really don’t know, but I don’t feel like I can condone such purposeful misinformation.

The rest of the text was quite alright though in a lot of places, as mentioned above, the author was referencing sources of this kind or that kind. My feeling is that if he already brought these in, he should have tried some critical evaluation of these. This is especially valid as in a lot of places this was akin to “People used to think that X was the case, but in reality it is Y (my source).” Thanks for nothing…

All the above considered, this is still an alright history of Mercia, but I would recommend a book which isn’t afraid to say it will be that.

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