I had to write a Who’s Who page for the blog as Mr Anglo-Saxonist heard on the radio that in America an Anglo-Saxonist is not merely a person obsessed by Anglo-Saxon history but some species of unsavoury character… and requested that I make it clear that he’s merely the first but not the latter!
Since I was going to write a Who’s Who, I felt I might as well include the more obscure authors and historical figures that populate these pages.
It is a work in progress…
…but I thought I’d share the first instalment with you.
By way of kicking off the new year. Happy New Year to you all, by the way! 🙂
An enterprising employee of the Bible Society of London who went to to peddle a forbidden book up and down the land of civil war torn, Catholic Spain in the 19th century. A gifted linguist and a born adventurer, Borrow wrote his highly entertaining story up in… The Bible in Spain. (I don’t have to spell out what book he was selling, do I?)
An English sailor and historian who fell in love with the Mediterranean during World War II. He wrote histories and travel books in an entertaining, relaxed style, eminently suited for holiday reading. If you only ever read one book about the Battle of Thermopylae, read his. More about him in Sailing into History.
Bernal Díaz del Castillo
A Spanish conquistador who took part in the conquest of Mexico with Hernán Cortez. He described his experiences in the The Conquest of New Spain.
Alonso de Contreras
A Spanish soldier of fortune in the 17th century. Contreras mostly served in the Mediterranean against the Turks although he also visited the Indias where he fought against Sir Walter Raleigh. A hot head and a womaniser, he often got into trouble for killing when not on the battle field; he was imprisoned several times and even lived as a hermit for a while. He wrote his life’s story up in The Adventures of Captain Alonso de Contreras.
A German monk with the gift of the gab who twice went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, the Red Sea and Egypt in the 1480s and then wrote a detailed account of his travels. He can be a bit boring on occasion – when he describes every stone and tree stump in Jerusalem and the number of indulgences he received for kissing them – but he had an open and enquiring mind and he did go on pilgrimage in a then enemy country. Well worth persevering with. (Or take him in small (tasty) bites here on Waterblogged.)
Antonio de Nebrija
The man who wrote the first grammar of a ‘vulgar’ tongue in Europe; he dedicated his grammar of the Castilian language to Queen Isabella and his foreword continues to be quoted to this day.
Who is only obscure outside England…!
An English children’s author (and supposed spy) who wrote the Swallows and Amazons series about the outdoor adventures of some enterprising children. Unlike Enid Blyton, Ransome wrote well enough to be an entertaining read even for adults.
A dissident Russian author in the second half of the 20th century. He was kicked out of university for not taking the compulsory military training seriously enough (he cheeked the major in charge). Best known for his highly subversive novel, Moscow Stations – wickedly funny.