Godden has provided scholars, students, and the public with a much-needed translation into Modern English of the Old English adaptation of Orosius’s History, which itself is a rewriting of the history of the world from a Christian perspective. A contemporary of Augustine, Orosius was a Spanish cleric who wrote “one of the most widely read accounts of world history through late antiquity and the Middle Ages”; that account had “an important influence on much later writing of history” (ix) (particularly Orosius’s novel approach to geographic description) and was especially influential in Anglo-Saxon England, where it was not only read by Bede and Aldhelm, but also rendered into the vernacular in the late ninth or early tenth century.
The greatest virtue of this volume is that it takes this important account of the history of world—a vital text to those scholars who work in the field of Anglo-Saxon studies, but which until now has remained relatively obscure to students and the wider public—and makes it far more accessible than it has been for more than a century. Instructors will likely find it a compelling text to include in courses on medieval perspectives on the world or medieval historiography, and as scholars avail themselves of its literal and readable translation, overall engagement with the Old English Orosius, or now The Old English History of the World, will certainly grow.
Benjamin A. Saltzman