As it turns out, my father has uninstalled Adobe Reader, and the freeware version he has on this computer appears to hate JStor files. Accordingly, I cannot print out and read Whitelock’s ‘Archbishop Wulfstan- Homilist and Statesman’, or anything else, and so instead, let us talk about Vikings.
Vikings can really spice up your century or three. The quick outline of English political history that I carry in my head, cobbled together from the battered copy of Carter & Mears’ A History of Britain (Oxford UP, 1937) which my father acquired when I was a teenager, and from Awesome’s introductory lectures two years ago, is quite light on chronology. I know there were two waves of Viking invasions, in between which, the descendants of Alfred had time to unite the kingdom and sponsor some monastic reforms, and I know a few details of kings or battles and religious politics, but all of these bits of knowledge float around on the loose. I can remember, more or less, what happens, but not the relationship in time, and this, as it turns out, is quite important if you want to think about things like the progress of Norse settlement in England.
Some weeks ago now, I sat in on a Norse Symposium at USyd, solely for the purpose of hearing one paper, entitled ‘The Viking Experience in Ninth Century England’. The presenter, Shane McLeod from the University of Western Australia (whaddya know, they have medievalists in Perth…), is a PHD student, working on applying something called ‘migration theory’ to the Norse invasions, and making deductions about the type of people who would have settled in England (apparently, not only the invading armies- ‘chain migration’ means that, as long as communication remained open with Scandinavia, those friends and relatives looking for a new start who could afford the journey would have been likely to come). Shane is also tracing links between Viking groups across Europe, England and Ireland, which suggest that not only did raiders pick up and head off to assist their fellows somewhere else, but that settlers are likely to have moved in and out of England and other occupied territories. I remember being taught by the formidable Margaret Clunies Ross that amongst the early settlers of Iceland were Norsemen who had previously settled in the Orkneys, and (in decreasing order of probability, as I remember it), the northern isles, Scotland, and Ireland, so this last suggestion fits in with what I already knew of Viking habits.
At the end of his presentation, I was wondering about two things:
1. What was the relationship between the Norse invaders and the local English communities? Did your bog-standard English farmer, over the process of a hundred years or so, start speaking Norse?
Migration theory in Celtic studies, as I learnt it from Lynette Olson, currently holds that, rather than a ‘wave’ of Celtic invasions across Europe, a phenomenon of successive ‘celticisation’ saw small groups of Celts setting up in a position of cultural dominance, replacing some ruling groups and allying with others, and the local peoples- both those now under Celtic control and those independent groups who saw fit to emulate Celtic lifestyles for political purposes- picking up Celtic language, religious customs and artwork. I’ve not made much investigation into it, but it seems logical that the same sort of thing would have come with the Anglo-Saxon invasions (aside from Dr Olson’s favourite genetic evidence, I’m thinking of those independant Celtic kingdoms which hang on for a while and then seamlessly dissipate into the surrounding Saxon kingdoms…)
It would follow, then, that any Norse settlement in England cannot have been wholesale replacement of the locals, and that said locals may have ‘Norsified’ (Vikingised?) under their new leaders/ more powerful neighbours. What happened to the local English under the Norse? And what’s more, what happened to those Englishmen when, after a generation or so, they found themselves under English rule again?
2. Along the same lines- what happens to the Norse settlers, the farmers and craftsmen, the women and so on, in the period between ‘invasions’? Presumably they can’t have all turned around and gone home- so what happened to them when the new Viking invaders turned up in the late 10th century? Did they still identify as ‘Norse’? Or had they settled into their new home?
Well, I now have my hands on both Carter & Mears, and Edward James’ excellent textbook Britain in the First Millennium. Coming next on the Naked Philologist: Highly sorts out her chronology, and learns some basic facts of Anglo-Saxon politcs, which will provide a sketchy answer to question 2, and perhaps some thoughts on question 1 as well.