Anglo-Saxon Somerset
Michael Costen

ISBN
9781842175521

Published by
Oxbow Books 2011-03-15

Summary

The county of Somerset cannot lay claim to have been an Anglo-Saxon kingdom like Kent or Sussex, but nevertheless it has a history as a distinct region which can be traced to the seventh century and there are hints of an earlier entity in the post-Roman period. Although the detail of this society is difficult to recover, there is no doubt that it was successful in maintaining its independence for over two centuries before it was over-run by the Anglo-Saxons from the east. On the edge of the highland zone, with its diverse topography, newly conquered Somerset provided the early Anglo-Saxon kings and aristocracy with a rich prize, which they were quick to exploit. This book traces the way in which the king and his warrior followers shaped the countryside to meet the particular needs of a society which was still in the process of formation when it created Somerset. The westward expansion of the Anglo-Saxons of Hampshire and Wiltshire was a step in the formation of Wessex, both as a kingdom and as a self-conscious society. The landscape still bears witness to the changes that took place in a highly ordered and stratified polity over the course of the eighth and ninth centuries. The book also examines the response to the challenge presented by the attacks of the Vikings and traces the impact of the new technologies introduced into agriculture which underpinned a profound change in the structure of society at all levels and provided the economic impetus for a growth in population and the final shaping of the landscape we see today. Although profoundly rural and agricultural even Somerset felt the impact of trade with the outside world, though a connection with distant parts of the Mediterranean did not last long. Instead the shire came to feel the influence of Gaul and Ireland through its ecclesiastical links and also through the Vikings, who had a commercial side to their contacts with western Britain. The influence of the Church on this society was profound, successfully replacing the gods of the Romano-British world with the faith which now dominated the Eastern Empire and the barbarian successor states of the western Empire. Evidence of Christianity in post-Roman Somerset is strong. The enthusiastic acceptance of Christianity by the Anglo-Saxons was closely bound up with the emergence of their petty kingdoms and the ideological support offered by the Church underpinned much of the new structures of their society. In return the Church prospered as a major economic and cultural force in the landscape. Somerset provides good evidence of long-term monastic survival from the late post-Roman world through to the great rebirth of the tenth century. It is at some of its church sites that we should look for the continuity between the post-Roman and the Anglo-Saxon worlds.


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ISBN
9781842175521

Published by
Oxbow Books 2011-03-15

Summary

The county of Somerset cannot lay claim to have been an Anglo-Saxon kingdom like Kent or Sussex, but nevertheless it has a history as a distinct region which can be traced to the seventh century and there are hints of an earlier entity in the post-Roman period. Although the detail of this society is difficult to recover, there is no doubt that it was successful in maintaining its independence for over two centuries before it was over-run by the Anglo-Saxons from the east. On the edge of the highland zone, with its diverse topography, newly conquered Somerset provided the early Anglo-Saxon kings and aristocracy with a rich prize, which they were quick to exploit. This book traces the way in which the king and his warrior followers shaped the countryside to meet the particular needs of a society which was still in the process of formation when it created Somerset. The westward expansion of the Anglo-Saxons of Hampshire and Wiltshire was a step in the formation of Wessex, both as a kingdom and as a self-conscious society. The landscape still bears witness to the changes that took place in a highly ordered and stratified polity over the course of the eighth and ninth centuries. The book also examines the response to the challenge presented by the attacks of the Vikings and traces the impact of the new technologies introduced into agriculture which underpinned a profound change in the structure of society at all levels and provided the economic impetus for a growth in population and the final shaping of the landscape we see today. Although profoundly rural and agricultural even Somerset felt the impact of trade with the outside world, though a connection with distant parts of the Mediterranean did not last long. Instead the shire came to feel the influence of Gaul and Ireland through its ecclesiastical links and also through the Vikings, who had a commercial side to their contacts with western Britain. The influence of the Church on this society was profound, successfully replacing the gods of the Romano-British world with the faith which now dominated the Eastern Empire and the barbarian successor states of the western Empire. Evidence of Christianity in post-Roman Somerset is strong. The enthusiastic acceptance of Christianity by the Anglo-Saxons was closely bound up with the emergence of their petty kingdoms and the ideological support offered by the Church underpinned much of the new structures of their society. In return the Church prospered as a major economic and cultural force in the landscape. Somerset provides good evidence of long-term monastic survival from the late post-Roman world through to the great rebirth of the tenth century. It is at some of its church sites that we should look for the continuity between the post-Roman and the Anglo-Saxon worlds.


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