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Posts Tagged ‘NJ Higham’

Adventures in Bookland: Ecgfrith, King of the Northumbrians, High King of Britain by NJ Higham

Monday, October 24th, 2016

517twmhyeqlProfessor NJ Higham is probably (no, definitely) the foremost academic expert of the history of the kingdom of Northumbria. (In one of those peculiar coincidences, he is Emeritus professor of History at the University of Manchester but, just to cause confusion, the University of Manchester has another eminent professor who is also called NJ Higham – and Nicholas is the Christian name for both of them. The other NJ Higham is the Richardson Professor of Applied Mathematics.)

So imagine my delight when, reading Professor Higham’s latest book, I found…me! Yes, I was referenced and footnoted, and not just once but multiple times. It turns out that the great man has read the book on the history and archaeology of Northumbria that I co-wrote with Paul Gething, the director of the Bamburgh Research Project, the ongoing archaeological investigation of the castle and its surroundings. Turning to the back of the book, not only is Northumbria: the Lost Kingdom in the bibliography, but so are Edwin: High King of Britain and Oswald: Return of the King!

All I can say is that I wish this book had come out before I began writing the Northumbrian Thrones. It is quite the most rigorous and thorough treatment of the kings of Northumbria’s ascent to dominance, and the perfect foil to Max Adams’ book The King in the North. Where Adams treatment is poetic and anthropological, pursuing the limited evidence by recourse to cultural parallels even if they are far removed (an approach that suggests much that is intriguing but one that establishes very little), Professor Higham’s book is much more restrained, not seeking to push the evidence beyond what we know but, by bringing a lifetime of scholarship to bear, Professor Higham extracts every last bit of inference from what we do know, creating the fullest possible picture of the kingdom of Northumbria in its heyday. Indeed, for the period of Northumbrian dominance, this book is now the definnitive work, overtaking Professor Higham’s own magisterial The Kingdom of Northumbria AD350-1100.

Oswiu: What A Historian Thinks

Thursday, October 20th, 2016

I am hugely grateful to all the writers who have taken time to read and comment on Oswiu: King of Kings but, as writers of historical fiction all, I think every one of them would agree when I say that getting a glowing commendation from one of the most eminent historians in the field beats all.

Professor Nicholas J Higham is Emeritus professor in Early Medieval and Landscape History in History at the University of Manchester and one of the foremost experts in Early Medieval history in general, and the kingdom of Northumbria in particular. And he’s read my books!

Pause for a quick run around the room, waving my hands in the air because I really do care.

(Just to confuse things, there is, believe it or not, another Professor Nicholas J Higham at the University of Manchester, but the other professor is the Richardson Professor of Applied Mathematics. As an experiment, I’m going to put up pictures of both professors. See if you can guess which is the historian and which the mathematician – answer at the bottom of the blog.)

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Professor NJ Higham

Professor NJ Higham

Professor NJ Higham

Anyway, the historian Nick Higham knows more about Northumbria than just about anyone else. His book, The Kingdom of Northumbria: AD350-1100, is pretty well the definitive academic work on the subject while The Angl0-Saxon World is the best introduction for the general reader to the early medieval period in this country – and, in the tradition of early medieval scribes, a particularly handsome book too. For anyone seeking a deeper knowledge of these times, I particularly recommend Professor Higham’s Ecgfrith: King of the Northumbrians, High King of Britain (what’s more, he even mentions my books in the notes! How cool is that, I’ve been footnoted, and bibliographied, in a proper academic book!).

I first found out that Professor Higham had read one of my books when he left a review on Amazon of Edwin: High King of Britain. Of course, I didn’t know it was the Nick Higham (it could have been the mathematical Nick Higham, the photographical Nick Higham – there is one – and so on) but I figured there was a good chance it really was Professor Higham so I emailed him, at the University of Manchester, to ask.

And it was him!

Gosh, I was so chuffed.

Then, when I’d finished Oswald: Return of the King, I emailed Professor Higham if he would read an advance copy – and he did. And then he did so again with Oswiu: King of Kings. So, there you have it: an academic imprimatur from the professor who knows more about the subject than anyone else.

If that doesn’t convince you to read the book, I don’t know what will.

So, here’s what Professor Higham has to say about Oswiu: King of Kings:

The bare bones of Oswiu’s story was told by Bede in book III of his Ecclesiastical History; Albert puts flesh on the bones, bringing these characters to life in an historical novel which fairly fizzes with humanity, all amid the struggle between Christian and pagan, Northumbria and Mercia, for the soul of Britain.

There. Can’t say fairer than that. Thank you, Professor Higham!

(And, if you’re wondering, the historical Professor NJ Higham is the one without the glasses.)

Book review: The Anglo-Saxon World by Nicholas Higham & Martin Ryan

Thursday, December 18th, 2014
The Anglo-Saxon World

The Anglo-Saxon World

Skimming the other reviews for The Anglo-Saxon World, I see I’m just adding to the consensus but, you know, sometimes a consensus exists because something is true: this really is the best one-volume introduction to the Anglo-Saxon world around. It’s not cheap, but it is worth every penny.

Nick Higham’s writing style has improved immensely since he wrote The Kingdom of Northumbria A.D. 3501100 (my go-to guide when working on Edwin High King of Britain and now Oswald: Return of the King), and he now combines engaging prose with his immense knowledge of the subject. Really, no criticisms; if you want to learn about the history and culture of the Early Medieval Period in Britain, read this book.