In Search of the Dark Ages


Fully updated and revised with the latest historical research by pre-eminent British Historian Michael Wood for the book’s 40th anniversary. From Boudica to William the Conqueror, this is the definitive story of the Early Middle Ages and the hidden history of its people.

First published in 1981 and accompanying the hugely popular BBC documentary series of the same name, In Search of the Dark Ages is the bestselling book that helped establish Michael Wood as one of Britain’s leading historians. The book is still highly regarded for its research in the field and continues to sell on even 30 years after publication.

Updated with the latest archaeological research new chapters on the most influential yet widely unrecognized people of the British isles, In Search of the Dark Ages illuminates the fascinating and mysterious centuries between the Romans and the Norman Conquest of 1066.

In this fully revised and updated edition, Michael Wood vividly conjures some of the most important people in British history such as Hadrian, a Libyan refugee from the Arab conquests and arguably the most important person of African origin in British history, to Queen Boadicea, the leader of a terrible war of resistance against the Romans.

Here too, warts and all, are the Saxon, Viking and Norman kings who laid the political foundations of England: Offa of Mercia, Alfred the Great, Athelstan, and William the Conqueror, whose victory at Hastings in 1066 marked the end of Anglo-Saxon England.

Editorial Review

Living in England between the 1st and 10th centuries AD was fraught with challenges, from the threat of betrayal for kings to the perils of famine, plague, and warfare for the common farmer. Michael Wood, in his vivid exploration “In Search of the Dark Ages,” delves into this tumultuous era, beginning with the story of Boadicea, the iconic rebel who waged a bitter war against Roman colonizers. Wood’s narrative, marked by a deep passion for the subject, paints a picture of a time when England’s identity was still unformed, a period of upheaval and constant conflict that shaped the nation.

Wood’s journey through history is not just a recounting of events; it’s an immersive experience that brings to life the characters, battles, and legends of the Dark Ages. From the dramatic resistance led by Boadicea to the foundational victories of Alfred the Great against Viking invaders, Wood encapsulates the essence of an era that laid the groundwork for modern England. His ability to weave complex historical details into engaging stories makes the past accessible and compelling, allowing readers to traverse time from the ashes of Roman Britain to the formation of a united English kingdom.

Through the lens of key figures and decisive battles, Wood illustrates the transformation of England from a mosaic of tribal territories to a cohesive nation. His examination of the Arthurian legends, the Sutton Hoo burial, and the reigns of kings like Offa and Athelstan reveals the blend of brutality and wisdom that characterized leadership in these formative centuries. Wood’s critique of figures like Ethelred and his insightful analysis of the Norman Conquest offers a nuanced understanding of the era’s legacy, presenting it as both a dark period of struggle and a foundational chapter in England’s storied history.

“In Search of the Dark Ages” is a testament to Wood’s skill as a historian and storyteller, blending academic rigour with narrative flair. The book stands as a compelling invitation to rediscover the Dark Ages, offering a fresh perspective on a period often shrouded in myth and mystery. With Wood as a guide, readers gain not just knowledge of historical events but an appreciation for the indelible impact of these centuries on the English-speaking world. His work is a celebration of the resilience and ingenuity that shaped a nation, making “In Search of the Dark Ages” a must-read for anyone fascinated by the roots of modern England.

In Search of the Dark Ages by Michael Wood
Genre: Non-Fiction
Age Range: Adult
Start Rating: 4.6 stars
Publication Date: August 1, 2022

Author: Michael Wood

Michael Wood

Michael Wood

Michael David Wood, born on July 23, 1948, in Manchester, England, has emerged as a preeminent figure in the realms of history and broadcasting over the decades. With an academic foundation laid at Manchester Grammar School and further honed at Oriel College, Oxford, Wood’s pursuit of history and English was complemented by early theatrical experiences, including roles in Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle and Shakespeare’s Hamlet. His transition from postgraduate research in Anglo-Saxon history to journalism marked the beginning of a distinguished career that would blend historical inquiry with the art of storytelling, leading him to become a celebrated historian, broadcaster, and documentary filmmaker.

Wood’s career took off in the late 1970s with his work for the BBC in Manchester, where he developed and presented a series of landmark television documentaries, including In Search of the Dark Ages. His approachable style and passion for making history accessible to a wide audience have earned him not only a place in the hearts of viewers in the UK but also substantial acclaim in the United States and around the world. As a director of Maya Vision International and Professor of Public History at the University of Manchester, Wood has continued to influence both the field of history and the broader public understanding of it. His advocacy for the return of cultural artefacts and his commitment to education and understanding between cultures underscore his contributions to public history and broadcasting.


  • Wikipedia Contributors. (2024, February 7). Michael Wood (historian). Wikipedia; Wikimedia Foundation.

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