Sharon Turner (1768-1847) practised as a solicitor in London,
specialising in the law of copyright. As a young man he became
enthusiastically involved in the study of Anglo-Saxon and Icelandic
literature and history. In 1799-1805 he published this four-volume
history, still acknowledged as a turning point in Anglo-Saxon
studies and a benchmark in historiography. Turner was elected a
fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1800, soon after the first
volume appeared. His approach of contrasting 'Anglo-Saxon freedom'
with 'the Norman yoke' (an idea dating from the seventeenth
century) held particular appeal at a time of deteriorating
political relations with France. Turner's lasting achievement,
however, was to draw public attention to the rich and fascinating
material contained in the Anglo-Saxon manuscripts he had studied at
the British Museum. This work went through many editions, but was
eventually superseded by Kemble's The Saxons in England (1849, also
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