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Offa and the Mercian Wars (Paperback)

The Rise and Fall of the First Great English Kingdom

British History Ancient History Military

By Chris Peers
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 198
ISBN: 9781526711502
Published: 15th May 2017

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In England in the eighth century, in the midst of the so-called Dark Ages, Offa ruled Mercia, one of the strongest Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. For over 30 years he was the dominant warlord in the territory south of the Humber and the driving force behind the expansion of Mercia’s power. During that turbulent period he commanded Mercian armies in their struggle against the neighbouring kingdoms of Northumbria and Wessex and against the Welsh tribes. Yet the true story of Offa’s long reign and of the rise and fall of Mercia are little known although this is one of the most intriguing episodes in this little-recorded phase of England’s past. It is Chris Peers’s task in this new study to uncover the facts about Offa and the other Mercian kings and to set them in the context of English history before the coming of the Danes.

It is satisfying to read another book which plugs a gap in the history timeline. During the period CE600-900, often referred to as “The Dark Ages,” in England, there were 4 kingdoms, Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia, and Wessex, and the mightiest of these was Mercia, led by King Offa.

I was surprised at just how much is known about this “dark ages” period. Chris Peers has written a most interesting account of the rise and fall of Anglo-Saxon Mercia, using contemporary writings and modern archeological sources. He does interpolate some gaps, and apologises for frequently using the words “probably” and “perhaps”, but his conjectures never grated.

Most of the book is about battles and wars, including the onset of the Viking invasions, and the rise of Wessex under Alfred “The Great”. Offa’s 39 year reign partially overlapped that of Charlemagne, and although they never met, the book outlines some correspondence between them, and describes how they viewed each other.

An excellent and most interesting read. Recommended.

Dr JCL Viggers

A fascinating look at a key period of Anglo-Saxon history.

Read the full review here

History of War

An excellent introduction to Britain in the so-called “Dark Ages”.

New York Military Affairs Symposium

Much about this period is unrecorded but the author effectively fills in the gaps through his extensive research.

Military Heritage, May 2018

Where we live was once the northern boundary of the Anglo Saxon kingdom of Mercia. Today history neglects the fact that its powerful kings from Penda to Offa (he of Offa’s Dyke) wielded an influence over all the country, well before the ascendance of the kingdom of Wessex and the selective records of the Anglo Saxon Chronicle.

In a new book, Offa and the Mercian Wars, author Chris Peers sets out to uncover the facts about Offa and the other Mercian kings and to set them in the context of English history before the coming of the Danes. In doing so he provides an interesting window into a largely forgotten and misunderstood world and a kingdom stretching from the Humber to the Thames and from the Welsh border to the Fens. We learn that for over 30 years Offa was the dominant warlord in the territory south of the Humber and the driving force behind the expansion of Mercia’s power. During this turbulent period he commanded Mercian armies in their struggle against the neighbouring kingdoms of Northumbria and Wessex
and against the Welsh tribes. Yet the true story of Offa’s long reign and of the rise
and fall of Mercia are little known although this is one of the most intriguing episodes in this little-recorded phase of England’s past.

Ironically, were it not for the genealogical accident of Mercia’s later rulers not leaving strong heirs, the real and written history of England’s birth might well have been radically different.

Village Publications

This account of Offa of Mercia and his battles against the other kingdoms of ancient Britain is as thrilling as a Bernard Cornwell novel...


Read the full review here.

Books Monthly
 Chris Peers

About Chris Peers

Chris Peers is a leading expert on the history of ancient armies and warfare and has written widely on the subject. He has contributed many articles to military history, wargaming and family history magazines, and his major publications include Warlords of China: 700BC-AD1662, Warrior Peoples of East Africa, Soldiers of the Dragon, The African Wars: Warriors and Soldiers of the Colonial Campaigns, Battles of Ancient China, Genghis Khan and the Mongol War Machine and King Stephen and the Anarchy: Civil War and Military Tactics in Twelfth-Century Britain.

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