Monday, August 01, 2005

Historical Arthur II

Have you've been reading or watching Francis Pryor on the subject, Stephen? (see Stephen's comments under posting Historical Arthur) :

Yes, the 'Anglo-Saxon' cemeteries would be full of locals. Many of the 'ethnic' Anglo-Saxons would have been born in this country by then ... And that makes them British and locals - doesn't it? Their teeth would be the same as any 'Brit' So who was British? There are doubtless also ethnic British in the cemeteries too.

There were Germanics in the Roman Army, posted in this country during the 4th century. This is early, hence some of the 'locals' in 'AS' cemeteries being born in Britain in the 5th-6th century. I wouldn't like to say how many Anglo-Saxons migrated here, though I wasn't convinced by Pryor's reasoning as to why the dominant language in this country became English and not some form of Welsh or Gaelic.

When I wrote 'deep turmoil' I wasn't referring to war (though this was a violent era) but to something a little more abstract. For those tied to working on the land, it would have been 'different face [which could be either Roman, British, Romano-British, Anglo-Saxon, Irish, Pictish, etc.] same sh*t.' Those who wanted power/land would be fighting it out, literally - it's human nature to do so. The number of military elite would be pretty small, with others being dragged in to serve, probably with some reluctance. There is a heady mix of peoples, languages, inter-marriage, cultural affiliations, religions, loyalties, etc. That's deep turmoil. And that's what I'm interested in as a writer.

When a man walks down the street of a settlement in Deira/Yorkshire during the early 6th century, what language does he hear? And what language does he speak? That's what I keep in mind, as it leads me to all kinds of questions and possibilities. Keeping a careful eye on the human aspects ensures I'm not just writing a history lesson of some kind. I could easily fall into 'history-lesson-itis' (see Bulwer-Lytton post and Chim-chim-eney) given my background.

One of the things that typifies the era for me is the inclusion of the name Cerdic in the West Saxon King List. Cerdic is a very British name, Ceredig ... It speaks volumes. Unfortunately, Alfred Duggan in Conscience of the King (1950) has already written that story in a most excellent fashion, so I won't be going there. And yes, I do know that the King Lists are dubious ...

Archaeology rarely gives evidence for actual conflict. Interpretation of the evidence is all, especially for this period. I really don't want to write an essay on the subject; we all interpret history in our own way, so that Stephen's interpretation is valid, as is Mr Pryor's, and even mine!

PS In trying to find a nice link for Alfred Duggan I've just found out that Conscience of the King has been re-issued. I highly recommend it!


At 7:19 pm BST, Blogger Stephen said...

I hadn't read anything by Pryor before I posted, so thanks for the link.

I am always suspicious of historical grand narratives, and the Anglo-Saxon Invasions are just such a grand narrative. The traditional account almost requires some great council of Angles, Saxons and Jutes to have gathered together and decide to head out across the North Sea to fresh woods and pastures new. It doesn't work for me.

I suspect that trade was behind much of the cultural penetration of the British Isles by Germanic designs and objects. Deep turmoil is not the soundest basis for successful trade.

But it's years since I really studied this sort of stuff.

At 9:24 pm BST, Blogger Alex Bordessa said...

I certainly don't believe in some grand council. Haven't heard that one before! Doesn't work for me either.

This is an era of change, whichever way you want to look at it, and with change comes unrest. And with unrest comes opportunism. There are warlords, of whatever cultural affiliation. Which means it wasn't exactly a paradise, whilst these warlords scrapped amongst themselves. Every man for themselves rather sums it up. They weren't a fluffy lot, that's for sure.

Just looking at the slightly more accessible records of the 8th century gives a good idea of what was likely to have gone on: Acquisitive-Bernicia giving Stay-at-home-Deira a good thumping on a regular basis for example. Very friendly of them, though the adversity produced a very strong Deiran King.


Post a Comment

<< Home