Eminently readable and remarkably fluid, Godden’s work makes this “Alfredian” translation truly accessible to early twenty-first century students of Old English for the first time. Godden’s introduction serves as a reliable and clear outline of the cultural situations of both the Old English text and its source, Paulus Orosius’s Seven Books of the History Against the Pagans (written after the sack of Rome in 410 CE). It will no doubt help many students as they struggle to make sense of the divergent cultural inheritances of source and translation. Given his long history with the work in question, it is no surprise that the elegantly spare notes are, though obviously not comprehensive, extremely useful for the student of The Old English History of the World who might not be familiar with its Latin predecessor. However, most apparent to this reviewer was the sympathetic warmth, even humor, which Godden brings to this part of the edition.
This beautifully written and gorgeously made new edition and facing-page translation will help make the full text of The Old English History of the World accessible to students earlier in their careers and hopefully spur a new generation of scholars to explore this fascinating work. If discussions of the History have long been dominated by arguments about the segments that are “original” to the Old English translation, Godden’s text will allow us to see again how much there is to be gained by exploring it as a full work—and as much more than merely the sum of its parts.
Mary Kate Hurley
Journal of English and Germanic Philology