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King Arthur's Britain
King Arthur's Britain
Director: Francis Pryor
Genres: Educational, Documentary
NR     2005     2hr 27min

By examining the mysterious figure of King Arthur, British archaeologist and bestselling author Francis Pryor disputes the belief that Britain reverted to anarchy after the Romans left in 410 A.D., sinking into the Dark Ag...  more »


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Movie Details

Director: Francis Pryor
Genres: Educational, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Educational, History
Studio: Acorn Media
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen
DVD Release Date: 09/20/2005
Release Year: 2005
Run Time: 2hr 27min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 4
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Turning Up The Lights From Within the Dark Ages
interested_observer | San Francisco, CA USA | 05/04/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"King Arthur's Britain is a revisionist view of the history of England and Wales from 400 to 600. The host and primary speaker is Francis Pryor, an archaeologist with extra experience in the Fen region of eastern England.

The traditional view is that Rome conquered the unwilling Britons, that Rome civilized the place, and that it all collapsed just after the legions left. When the Anglo-Saxons took advantage to invade, King Arthur held them off for a crucial while, after which England stabilized and consolidated.

Pryor makes the case that Britain was politically fragmented before Rome took over, that many in Britain admired Rome culturally and as a trade partner, that a tribe may have invited the Romans in, and that the Roman conquest was broadly accepted.

The film shows a number of examples of prosperity and large-scale activities after the Roman army had left, including archaeological findings at Wroxeter, Tintagel, and Hadrian's Wall. The writings of Gildas and poetic inscriptions are evidence of cultural and economic success.

Pryor makes a detailed case against a military Anglo-Saxon invasion. The centerpiece is a remarkable ultra-large scale survey in Yorkshire showing a peaceful transition from Celtic-Roman to Anglo-Saxon. The proposal is that the locals chose to adopt the Anglo-Saxon language and culture because they were useful or fashionable, not because they were imposed.

The film states Britain had been Christianized during the Roman period and that Christianity had been maintained after the Romans left. Rome did not convert the Britons to Christianity starting in 597, regardless of what the Venerable Bede says. Maybe Rome just got the Celtic Church to subordinate itself to Rome and keep working on pagan immigrants.

The documentary has many beautiful, cinematic shots of Roman ruins (often restored through computer graphics), Arthurian sites, pottery, swords, burial mounds, and modern fields with computer grapics displays of prior states. There are many outside experts, some with conflicting views.

Pryor wants to give evidence of what Britain was like in those centuries, wants to tie in Arthur's legend, and wants to demonstrate British unity. This last point is illustrated with how pre-Roman Celtic customs might link to the medieval Excalibur/ Lady of the Lake story, with how native Celtic speakers might have shaped the way the English language developed, and a bit of pc rhetoric. All in all, his documentary has an interesting viewpoint and is well presented.

While Pryor is at pains to debunk the Anglo-Saxon invasion theory, he seems to go to the other extreme and speculate that the Britons changed their language and culture as a fashion statement. An intermediate position is possible.

The Romans put in roads, a border wall, shore forts, and administrative centers, all of which unified the country. The ending of Roman rule would render all these investments less useful. One could see south-west Britain looking to Mediterranean trade and east British rulers looking to the Germanic tribes. The Pope would be eyeing the independent Celtic Church. There was a period of division before the re-unification took place.

It startled me that the first words out of Pryor's mouth ware: "In the year 407, the Emperor Constantine the Third led the last few Roman troops from these islands. The Empire that had constructed this remarkable world had crumbled in Britain." He certainly disavows it all.

King Arthur's Britain
Kenneth Scheffler | Canada | 07/30/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"King Arthur's Britain explores the world of the British between the end of the Roman period to the time of the supposed Anglo-Saxons invasions, the period traditionally referred to as the Dark Ages and during which the legend of King Arthur is supposed to have orignated.

During the course of the three episodes, archeologist Francis Pryor attempts to shed new light on the era through the use of recent archeological evidence, and in the end derives conclusions that strongly contradict accepted ideas about Britain during this period.

In short, all this makes for an exceedingly fascinating and enlightening watch. But the question needs to be asked, just how accurate is Pryor's interpretation of the "facts" and is he simply dispelling long-held myths by constructing new ones to replace them?

One should not lose sight of the fact while watching this program that, just as he accuses Bede and the Victorians for having an agenda when writing about this period, those academics involved in developing this new interpretation of this era are themselves not infallible.

The limits of archaeological science
R. Bagula | Lakeside, Ca United States | 05/29/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

"What we have in these three lectures is an attempt to
"change history" based on the "bullying of archaeologists".The problem with this is that we have historical manuscripts that the history has been based on. So the Venerable Bede ( whose name tells you how he was regarded in this time) is plainly called a liar here. If he were the only evidence for the Anglo-Saxon invasion, then this might be a success, but this plainly seems to be another attempt to mar history by a science that can't tell us if dinosaurs were warm or cold blooded. There is an after the fact limitation of digging up the past and it can not "replace" as this attempts to actual written records from the time.
The idea that there is no record of the battles that historian tell us took place can also be applied to the Norman invasion.
In both cases the language changed and there were actually just a slight or few number of actual people involved to the invasion.
I think this set of lectures is important because it does try to change history based on incomplete data of a science that
hasn't yet matured. These are the same people that suppressed data of
per-Clovis people in the new world for over 40 years
by doctrine alone. The argument doesn't float:
the Anglo-Saxons did invade; their language remains to show us that."