Seminars CCLIII-CCLVI: Friends and the Famous Speaking at Leeds

There is a lot of unpleasantness going on just now, he says in a classic understatement. I had most of a series of angry posts about the state of the English university done when Russia invaded Ukraine, something I’d barely seen coming and which is starting, as people break out the word ‘nuclear’, to sound a lot like the bad dreams of my Cold War childhood over again. Now it seems a bit selfish to complain about having secure if worsening employment while others are losing their homes and lives. The Ukraine conflict has also got some pretty deep and obvious medievalist resonances, but with fighting going on at this moment, I cannot look at that now. Instead I’m staying safe around the turn of 2018/2019, when because I was not on Action Short of Strike and being threatened with total pay deduction because of it, I was still going to seminars. I cannot get to many seminars down south any more, so it is always important when people come north (or in one of these cases, east), and in normal circumstances I try to be there whoever’s speaking. But for these four I was there because I knew or knew of the people and was glad to have them visiting us, and so they each get a short report despite this having happened three years ago plus, sorry.

Real Royal Protection for the Carolingian Church?

First up, then, and coming from least far was my sort-of-opposite number in Manchester, Dr Ingrid Rembold, who on 28th November 2018 was in Leeds to address our Medieval History Seminar with the title, “Widows, Orphans and the Church: protection and virtue signalling in the Carolingian world”. Here, Ingrid was looking at the three categories of society whom Carolingian Western Europe considered it a royal duty to protect, and asking why and what it actually got them. For the Church we mainly had monasteries to talk about, and she had some good critical things to say about the legal category of ‘royal’ monastery, which I have myself also always struggled to find expressed in the actual sources; and her general argument that these obligations (which the previous royal dynasty don’t seem to have felt anything like as keenly) mainly sprang from the Old Testament and the idea of the Church as the bride of Christ, temporarily ‘widowed’ by His absence from Earth, I thought was new and sounded right.1

The Torhalle of the Lorsch monastery

The Torhalle of Lorsch monastery, supposedly a ‘royal’ house but whatever that means, this is a building through which Carolingian kings almost certainly passed. Image by Kuebi – Armin Kübelbeck – self-made with 36 single shots (Lens: 1:1.8 85 mm; 1:5.6; 1/500s; ISO 100; manual focus and manual exposure) made by stitching with Hugin, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Where there was more disagreement, however, although mainly between me and Fraser McNair, then of this parish, was about what this protection meant and how it was delivered. Ingrid had quite early on argued that Carolingian local power was so reliant on the local powerful that its legislation of this kind could only be exhortatory, without real force except as those locals cared to enforce it, which for her presented the problem that monasteries sometimes sought royal protection against exactly those locals, which makes no sense if they were the ones who would have to deliver it. If, after all, they actually did behave differently because the king told them to, even if he couldn’t coerce them, that is arguably a more powerful king, not less, than if he had to send the boys round. And that does seem to have happened in Catalonia, I will admit, with royal grant after royal grant coming south from kings who could not appoint, remove or direct anyone there; but I have explained how I think that worked, and it’s not universal.2 I just think there was more use of force available to the Carolingian state than Ingrid does, apparently. She fairly asked whether it counts as state power if a local person does it, too, and this was where Fraser and I disagreed. I think the Carolingians mostly could send someone else into a local area with legitimate power to act, if they needed to, because of the three-legged structure of counts, Church and vassals they maintained, whereas Fraser argued that their trick was to recruit the locals into the wider power ideology of ministerium, so that yes, it absolutely did count as state enforcement if a local man did it, as long as he was the right local man.3 I just think that, optimally at least, there were plural right local men, and maybe the lengthy conversations between myself and Joseph Brown in comments on my old posts at the moment are partly about what happened once there was only a singular one in many areas.

Middle-Age spread in the English village

Then, on 4th December, no less a celebrity than Professor Carenza Lewis visited to deliver one of the Institute for Medieval Studies’ open lectures, with the title, “Triumph and Disaster: new archaeological evidence for the turbulent development of rural settlement”. This was showcasing a then-new project of which she was leader, which was seeking to redress the fact that we have a pretty skewed and partial sample of medieval rural settlement in England from archæology, mostly either deserted sites or along a belt from Hampshire to Lincolnshire and then up the Eastern Pennines. To remedy this, her team had been digging dozens and dozens of test pits of a meter square or so in people’s gardens, which was excellent for public engagement as well as data, and what they had mainly discovered was change. Thinly-documented phenomena like the ‘Middle Saxon shuffle’ (a general but not well understood shift of early English villages) showed up well, but the starkest two phenomena were, most of all, desertion of sites after the Black Death, to levels like 40-45% of sites with a concomitant implication of moves into towns as well as, you know, ‘Death’; and, secondly, the long period of high medieval growth before it. Those, perhaps, were not surprises, but they are often assumed from a small sample, so anything that puts such generalisations on firmer footings is probably worthwhile. What was weird to me then and remains so now, however, is that the Roman period, when we suspect settlement in lowland Britain to have been at its densest really until quite recently, showed up very poorly. Professor Lewis didn’t offer an explanation for this, but it made me wonder whether the method was somehow missing an object signature that would be significant. Since Roman ceramics are usually both plentiful and easy to recognise, however, as are Roman coins, I can’t imagine what it would have been! The Saxon period is usually poorer in material remains…4

Making Manuscripts under the Conquistadors

Then, finally ticking over the clock in 2019 and bringing this blog close to only three years behind at last, on 28th January 2019 Dr Claudia Rogers, then of Leeds and as we’ve seen a valued teaching colleague, presented some of her work in a workshop for the Medieval Group under the title of “Encountering Pictorials: a a workshop on sixteenth-century Meso-American manuscripts”. I know that this is not medieval on the usual European clock, but in the first place we have the debate about whether that counts outside Europe – but of course it’s kind of patronising and colonial to assert that, outside Europe, other places were ‘medieval’ for longer, so that’s not my justification here. Instead, I’ll argue that these manuscripts are some of our windows on the pre-Columbian time before, which is medieval on the European clock at least, and also that they’re just really cool.

Page from a Matrícula de Tributos, México City, Biblioteca Nacional de Antropologia, MS 35-52 fo 5r

Page from a Matrícula de Tributos showing just some of the stuff which the Aztecs had previously claimed in tribute every 80 days from their dependencies, México City, Biblioteca Nacional de Antropologia, MS 35-52 fo 5r

They are, however, wickedly complex to interpret. They are mostly on bark-paper, and come in three broad categories, organising knowledge by place (being, roughly, figured maps of significant things, people or events), events (iconographic treatments of single themes in detail, as here the tributes paid at conquest) or, to me most intriguing, by time, these being calendrical, cyclical, year-by-year chronicles with one image only per year to sum up everything in it. Obviously, one of their primary topics is the ‘Qashtilteca’ (‘Castile-people war’), but their reactions to it and involvements with it are quite complicated, and implicated: one group who produced several of these texts, the Tlaxcalans, had been in rebellion against the Aztecs when the Spanish arrived, and gladly accepted help against their overlords from the conquistadores, who, however, then turned on and subjugated their erstwhile allies. Tlaxcalan artist-scribes thus had a lot to explain. Smaller themes of the conquest can be picked up as well; apparently dog attacks on people became a new theme of depiction, for example. And these texts were produced in a world where the Spaniards were the new élite, and some were glossed in Castilian so we know that they were sometimes being explained to the conquerors. Are they therefore colonial or indigenous, collaborative or critical? Complications also arise when you compare these texts with solely-written ones of the same period: they seem to focus on different things, including giving more prominent roles to women. Was that a genre convention, or was one mode of discourse closer to (someone’s) truth than the other? And so on. And then there’s the question of what gets assumed or put back in the restorations that are making these texts increasingly available. Basically, you have to have a 360° critique going on at all times when trying to do history with these. Claudia did not necessarily have answers to these questions then, but even explaining the complexity of her questions was quite a feat, to be honest…5

Exemption by Whatever Means

Lastly for this post, a mere two days later I was back in probably the same room, I don’t remember, to hear then-Dr Levi Roach present to the Medieval History Seminar with the title, “Forging Exemption: Fleury from Abbo to William (997-1072)”. This was a paper dealing with no less fiendish, but much more focused, questions of source critique, revolving around the French monastery of Saint-Bénoît de Fleury (a ‘royal’ monastery in theory, but as we shall see and as Ingrid had already told us, that didn’t necessarily mean much). At the very end of the tenth century, Fleury found itself caught between a new dynasty of kings and their client, Bishop Arnulf of Orléans, Fleury’s local diocesan bishop, both of which were a problem for them (for reasons my notes don’t actually record). As well as Fleury’s own rights, they were in contention over the much bigger issue of who should be the Archbishop of Reims, a long-running fracas I will let someone else try and explain instead of me. For all these reasons, the monks found they needed extra support, and Abbot Abbo (or, I suppose, Abbo Abbot) went to Rome to get it, at that stage not yet a normal thing to do. Pope John XV apparently charged too much, but Pope Gregory V was more amenable and Abbo allegedly came back with a document detailing lots of things bishops could not demand from them.6 The problem is, however, that it’s not confirmed, and there is a nest of associated forgeries for other monasteries, and Levi’s work for about half his paper was to disentangle those from whatever the source of the copy of this document we now have actually was. Those who know my work well will realise that this twitched several of my interests, because only a few years before, I have argued that a count of Barcelona also went to the pope, on this occasion John XIII, to get a privilege which was not in fact awarded, and came back with the unconfirmed documents they’d presumably tried to get him to sign and pretended they were legit; but no-one believed them.7 Both that and the resort to the pope only when the king couldn’t or wouldn’t provide therefore looked quite familiar to me.8 I did raise these questions with Levi, indeed, and he defended his position by saying that when Fleury’s privilege was challenged, which it was, it was challenged on the basis of being unprecedented – quite literally uncanonical – rather than on being faked. To which I say, OK, but that doesn’t actually tell us what was going on. I need to check in on Levi’s subsequent work and find out what he now thinks, I guess! Had I but world enough and time, and did it not look like labour for my bosses when I’m on strike…9

But there you are, four good papers and only a selection of what I attended in November 2018 to January 2019 as well. Some of us clearly do find time to do research, or did! And I’m glad that they then come to Leeds when they have.

1. My picture of what the Carolingians did with monasteries probably relies principally on Matthew Innes, “Kings, Monks and Patrons: political identities and the Abbey of Lorsch” in Régine Le Jan (ed.), La royauté et les élites dans l’Europe carolingienne (début IXe siècle aux environs de 920) (Villeneuve de l’Ascq 1998), pp. 301–324, online here, which I still think is excellent, as I do most of Matthew’s stuff, but may still take that category of ‘royal monastery’ somewhat for granted.

2. Jonathan Jarrett, “Caliph, King, or Grandfather: Strategies of Legitimization on the Spanish March in the Reign of Lothar III” in The Mediaeval Journal Vol. 1 no. 2 (Turnhout 2011), pp. 1–22, DOI: 10.1484/J.TMJ.1.102535.

3. The odd thing is that I think we are both here channelling Matthew again, in the form of Matthew Innes, State and Society in the Early Middle Ages: the Middle Rhine Valley, 400-1000, Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought 4th Series 47 (Cambridge 2000), just apparently from different directions.

4. When reporting at this distance, it’s always wise to check if something has actually come out that would represent a more up to date presentation of the same research, and in this case it seems to have, as Carenza Lewis, “A Thousand Years of Change: New Perspectives on Rural Settlement Development from Test Pit Excavations in Eastern England” in Medieval Settlement Research Vol. 35 (Leicester 2020), pp. 26–46.

5. In Claudia’s case the subsequent publication is newer media, John Gallagher, Nandini Das and Claudia Rogers, “New Thinking: First Encounters”, MP3, BBC Radio 3, Arts & Ideas, 23rd October 2019, online here.

6. This must be Maurice Prou and Alexandre Vidier (edd.), Recueil des chartes de l’abbaye de Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire, Documents publiés par la Société archéologique du Gâtinais 5-6 (Paris 1907-1912), 2 vols, online here and here, I, doc. no. LXXI.

7. Jonathan Jarrett, “Archbishop Ató of Osona: False Metropolitans on the Marca Hispanica” in Archiv für Diplomatik Vol. 56 (München 2010), pp. 1–42.

8. I can’t take any credit for noticing people from the Catalan counties heading for Rome like they’d used to head to the king; that observation goes back as far as Ramon d’Abadal, Com Catalunya s’obri al món mil anys enrera, Episodis de la història 3 (Barcelona 1960).

9. It’s at least easy enough to find out that is, because Levi has since been all over the web about a book he’s published, Levi Roach, Forgery and Memory at the End of the First Millennium (Princeton NJ 2021), DOI: 10.1515/9780691217871, where pp. 113-152 look very much like a version of this paper.

21 responses to “Seminars CCLIII-CCLVI: Friends and the Famous Speaking at Leeds

  1. “it made me wonder whether the method was somehow missing an object signature that would be significant.”

    A question about the Romano-Briton peasants a couple of generations after the departure of Roman administrators: there is, I gather, remarkably little evidence for even their existence over much of the country. (The book I learned this from must be early 80s vintage.) You get plenty of evidence of Saxons because, being pagans, they left grave goods.

    Could one reasonable guess be that many Britons adopted Saxon burial practices rather quickly? Could ancient DNA cast any light on this?

    (I say “Saxons” as a nod to convention: my own instinct is to stop beating about the bush and just call them Germans.)

    • It’s a good enough question that there have been whole conferences about it. One supposition, for the purposes of argument as much as anything given how hard it is to prove, is that with the breakdown of industrial metalworking and ceramics with the collapse of the Roman economy in the island, British material culture might have been almost entirely wood, and thus perishable. If burial, also, didn’t involve stone fixtures but just a hole in the ground, that right there is a close-to-archæologically-invisible population. But your suggestion of acculturation is also a sharp one. The two flashpoint figures in this literature are Heinrich Härke, long-term University of Reading archæologist, now retired and working in Russia (I hope for his sake not right now working in Russia), who in the 1980s identified that certain sorts of burial with weapons, usually of a Continental type, seemed to cluster around certain sorts of skeletal characteristics, though not always, and identified it as a settler rite (so for him the people with weapons were Germans, rather than for example just big fellas whom people thought would be their best soldiers), and Mark Thomas who much more recently did the kind of DNA analysis you’re talking about and concluded that his modelling showed a kind of migrant apartheid in which immigrants had preferential reproductive access and so just bred the British out. That has been very hotly contested, including by other DNA specialists reanalysing the same material, but he’s stuck to his guns. It’s really hard to tell science from racism, or anti-racism, here. The biggest question, however, is that of the disappearance of the Celtic languages in the lowlands, with almost no Celtic loan-words making it into English. That used to be held as the best and most obvious token of extermination or humiliated subjection of the British by a large Germanic-speaking population; now people are wondering if Latin hadn’t already killed off the Celtic languages in the lowlands so that there was no scope for influence on English after all. It would be fair to say these things aren’t settled…

      Er, key references:

      the conference

      Nicholas J. Higham (ed.), Britons in Anglo-Saxon England, Publications of the Manchester Centre for Anglo-Saxon Studies 7 (Woodbridge 2007): where are they all?

      Härke and weapons burials

      Heinrich Härke, ‘“Warrior graves”? The background of the Anglo-Saxon weapon burial rite’ in Past & Present no. 126 (Oxford 1990), pp. 22–43
      Idem, “Archaeologists and Migrations: A Problem of Attitude?” in Current Anthropology Vol. 39 (Chicago IL 1998), pp. 19–46: a response to critics
      Idem, “Anglo-Saxon Immigration and Ethnogenesis” in Medieval Archaeology Vol. 55 (Abingdon 2011), pp. 1–28: more accommodating

      DNA and apartheid

      Michael E. Weale, Deborah A. Weiss, Rolf F. Jager, Neil Bradman and Mark G. Thomas, “Y Chromosome Evidence for Anglo-Saxon Mass Migration” in Molecular Biology and Evolution Vol. 19 (Oxford 2002), pp. 1008–1021, leading to…
      Mark G. Thomas, Michael P. H. Stumpf and Heinrich Härke, “Evidence for an apartheid-like social structure in early Anglo-Saxon England” in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences Vol. 273 (London 2006), pp. 2651–2657, provoking…
      John E. Pattison, “Is it necessary to assume an apartheid-like social structure in Early Anglo-Saxon England?”, ibid. Vol. 275 (London 2008), pp. 2423–2429, replied to in…
      Mark G. Thomas, Michael P. H. Stumpf and Heinrich Härke, “Integration versus apartheid in post-Roman Britain: a response to Pattison”, ibid., pp. 2419–2421 (yes, they did print the authors’ reply before the critical article…), with final salvo in…
      John E. Pattison, “Integration Versus Apartheid in Post-Roman Britain: A Response to Thomas et al. (2008)” in Human Biology Vol. 83 (New York City NY 2011), pp. 715–733. A historian’s take in:
      Alex Woolf, “Apartheid and Economics in Anglo-Saxon England” in Higham, Britons in Anglo-Saxon England, as above, pp. 115–129, online here.
      Oh yes, and have to mention:
      Bryan Ward-Perkins, “Why did the Anglo-Saxons not become more British?” in English Historical Review Vol. 115 (Oxford 2000), pp. 513–533, DOI: 10.1093/ehr/115.462.513.

      I appear to be about a decade behind, however, and more may have happened since I last had to teach any of this. The latest relevant references I have seem to be:
      Stephan Schiffels, Wolfgang Haak, Pirita Paajanen, Bastien Llamas, Elizabeth Popescu, Louise Loe, Rachel Clarke, Alice Lyons, Richard Mortimer, Duncan Sayer, Chris Tyler-Smith, Alan Cooper and Richard Durbin, “Iron Age and Anglo-Saxon genomes from East England reveal British migration history” in Nature Communications Vol. 7 (New York City NY 2016), 10408, important because comes out in support of large-scale migration even though several of the authors had previously disavowed that, and
      Susan Oosthuizen, The Emergence of the English, Past Imperfect (Leeds 2019), in exactly the opposite direction!

      • Joseph Brown

        My latest blogpost touches on these issues, though I can hardly claim to have definitive answers to any of them as I didn’t even do British History 1 (300 – 1100) at Oxford – I’m mainly just excited by the most recent discovery in the Thames Valley, and how it shows one of the most overlooked transitions in West European gender history (see here But I think I’m probably on about the same page as Bryan Ward-Perkins. And I’m not at all convinced by Oosthuizen.

        • I think Ward-Perkins is on the right page where he read it in Nick Higham’s Rome, Britain and the Anglo-Saxons, myself, and am much less sure about the pages where he assumes silently that large monolithic ethnic groups actually existed in this era. It means ignoring a whole controversy about what a ‘people’ is, which of course subsequently got him into arguments. I haven’t yet looked at Oosthuizen, but I have to say what reviews I’ve seen have not suggested I will disagree with you when I do.

  2. Craig Cessford

    The work that Carenza Lewis does is almost all in or around known High/Late Medieval settlements. Roman period settlements are extremely common over much of England, but are often in different locations from High/Late Medieval settlements. So Lewis is only finding the small proportion of Roman settlements that happen to be in the same location as High/Late Medieval settlements and missing most of them. Settlement continuity generally begins some point in the Middle or Late Saxon periods, so for anything earlier the technique as employed typically isn’t finding continuity but coincidence. Most of the Roman settlements that we find archaeologically lie under medieval field systems, where Lewis isn’t generally digging test pits, not villages.

    • Welcome, Dr Cessford! That all makes sense, thankyou. I’ve been led to believe that it’s almost harder to miss Roman settlements than hit them, such was their density, but that obviously can’t literally have been true with a society still on an agrarian base; and I guess with a 1m2 test pit you’re lucky to hit anything, and it’s most likely to be recent settlement if you do. And the Middle Saxon shift would account for the missing post-Roman signature, certainly. Thanks again for the food for thought.

      • Joseph Brown

        From what I gather, the population of Roman Britain in the fourth century AD is extremely controversial. I’m willing to buy estimates of 3 million, but the most generous estimates of 7 million (I’ve seen those mentioned in Peter Heather’s “Empires and Barbarians” and John Blair’s “Early Medieval Surrey”) I think are totally implausible – late medieval England c.1300 had an estimated 4.5 – 6 million people, and agricultural techniques then were definitely more advanced.

        And I think the Middle Saxon settlement shift is definitely what happened, certainly in my local area – most of my local settlements, Isleworth, Brentford, Kingston-upon-Thames, Sheen, Petersham, Chertsey etc all start appearing in the period 680 – 870, whereas the Roman settlements in Middlesex were further north, closer to Watling Street, and the ones in Surrey further south, towards the Surrey Hills and the North Downs.

        • agricultural techniques then were definitely more advanced

          O RLY!

          Mind you, otherwise I agree, but I can’t miss the chance to whip that particular historiographical horse again. What techniques do you suppose were not in use earlier?

          • Joseph Brown

            Off the top of my head, water mills were much more widely used than in Roman times (they were mostly used for industrial activities like at Barbegal) and windmills, three-field crop rotation, horse collar, heavy-plough were not in use in Roman times. That’s not to say I agree hook-line-and-sinker with the Duby-Fossier thesis that northern European agriculture was extremely primitive prior to a great take-off c.1000 (I’ve read the post you did on that, and I’m aware of your “Outgrowing the Dark Ages” article), and obviously Lynn White Jr is extremely problematic (though kudos to him for getting historians to take medieval technology seriously). But I do think some fundamental changes to northern European agriculture were definitely made at some point between c.800 and c.1200, and while this may be an effect of me reading too many interpretative surveys of medieval economic history as an undergraduate, the demographic expansion of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries seems to have been unprecedented and can’t be put down just to land clearance. I’m very happy to be proved totally wrong on this, as I can’t in the least claim to be an agrarian historian (though I do find agrarian history interesting).

            • I think windmills and horse-collars are the ones of those I’m also sure about, but they both start weirdly late in Europe, too late to really make a difference in your 800-1200 chronology. Three-course rotation is kind of a myth, also, and at least one Roman heavy plough has now been turned up (though don’t make me look for a reference just now). I would tend to agree that Romans maintained a simpler level of agricultural production than the high Middle Ages did, simply because they were not producing for a market in the same way so there was less incentive for individual improvement – the problems of a partial command economy. But I think that just means there were fewer people using these tools, not that they were unknown. People used what they needed to.

            • Joseph Brown

              That being said, there is of course another explanation for rural economic growth in the high middle ages – more money and markets creating incentives to produce more so you can afford consumer goods (how you get what Chris Wickham calls “high-equilibrium systems”

              • Absolutely. But now we need a cause for the increase in money and markets…

                • Joseph Brown

                  Indeed we do. Obviously, new access to bullion plays a role i.e. the Carolingians discovering new silver mines in the mid-eighth century in Poitou, the Ottonians discovering silver mines in the Harz mountains in the 960s, and various other European rulers opening up silver mines in Bohemia, Sardinia, Tyrol, the Pennines etc over the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. By the thirteenth century, you then get West African gold and copper starts getting mined in large quantities, and tri-denominational coinages are in at last.

                  But that can’t be the whole story, and neither can global exchange networks opening up. I think royal power has some role to play in the rise of markets i.e. the Carolingians in Francia, the Ottonians in Germany and the West Saxon kings in England (burhs, mints and markets go hand in hand). And after well, you know what, local seigneurs all over western Europe are setting up their own small towns and market fairs and encouraging peasants to go to them by asking for rents in coin. But at the same time, the idea that the people at the top are pushing peasants, who’d rather just stay at home, eat more and work less, onto the market, and thus the leap from subsistence economy to market economy comes entirely from above, doesn’t work. They’ve got to be responding to some kinds of localised economic change – for starters, why would they even want cash rents, if not because of new luxury goods, either produced by local artisans or overseas? And why would they set up markets if there wasn’t lots of local produce, either agricultural or artisanal, to be sold at them? If so, then what’s driving that …

                  • I am not going to try answering all those, not least because I should be doing other things right now, but, I will give Richard Hodges this much: I think part of the localised economic change was the conversion to cash, and the subsequent availability of that cash as liquidity, of much silver plate during the 840s onwards, and indeed the greater use of silver currency from the 780s onwards really. The Carolingian minting efforts may not have been huge on the scale of later silver or billon currencies, but they were still a step change in monetisation. Cash has utilities which many other storeable forms of wealth only offer in combination – durability, persistence of value, portability, multiplicability and replicability – and its widespread availability will have led to people making different economic choices. We’ve seen some of these here in recent discussions, and I think it is a part of the answer which doesn’t have to build on collapses of Roman structures or emergence of new tributary modes. It’s probably not the only piece, but I think only Hodges (unless quite recent work by Rory Naismith which I really must read follows up on it) has spotted that it does belong in this puzzle.

                    • Joseph Brown

                      Thanks so much for the reply. I’m coming to appreciate more and more the significance of Carolingian monetary reform in fuelling Western Europe’s economic takeoff

  3. “Fraser argued that their trick was to recruit the locals into the wider power ideology of ministerium, so that yes, it absolutely did count as state enforcement if a local man did it, as long as he was the right local man…”

    And indeed one can find me arguing as much in print in an article in Early Medieval Europe, ‘Governance, locality and legal culture: the rise and fall of the Carolingian advocates of Saint-Martin of Tours’:

  4. Mein Gott! What a wonderful reply. Thank you. There’s my retirement filled up then.

    Comment on Ward-Perkins.

    He misses a point when he says of the Britons “Many may subsequently have fled before the invaders, and many more may have been killed or been driven to an early grave”. To obliterate a population you don’t need either of those; you just need that population not to bear children or not to raise them to maturity.

    That’s what happened to the Tasmanian Aborigines. The men sold their women to whalers; they caught venereal diseases and became barren. Attempts to rewrite Australian history to make it as exciting as the Wild West are largely tripe, the fate of the Tasmanians included. Tasmania had neither a Little Bighorn nor a Wounded Knee.

    (Why so much Australian historiography should be so mendacious, filled with demonstrable fraud, I don’t know. Something to do, perhaps, with a 1950s culture war between Roman Catholics and Communists? Search me; the lies flourished long after that.)

    • You’re quite welcome, I used to love teaching this stuff.

      The legacy of the White Australia Policy must be part of the answer to your parenthetical question, I guess; anyone picking up an old school textbook of Australian history is going to get a very odd version of it.

      But in the case under discussion, I don’t think disease can be part of the answer; connections across the North Sea were already quite close enough to have established a shared pathogenic ecosphere (if I may use such language, which I probably do incorrectly). The logic that says that the Britons must not have reproduced is what underlies the apartheid arguments; but if there was a biological rather than social reason for that it almost certainly can’t have been VD! The scholarship I was raised on argued more like Ward-Perkins, that ‘British’ just became a much less successful-looking thing to be and that in a world where ethnicity was partly or mostly a matter of performance and expression, becoming ‘English’ was quite easy, especially for a second generation who had both languages. But the DNA evidence looks to be raising problems with a model based solely on acculturation, and I admit I don’t myself know how seriously to take that.

  5. I know it can’t be VD. People used to allude to the Plague of Justinian but I find it hard to think that apartheid was so strict that a highly infectious virus/bacterium/whatever wouldn’t spread from Britons to Germans.

    How about this? The Germans stole the Britons’ children and raised them as Germans. If the Germans initially arrived as male warriors then stealing British women AND their pre-existing children might seem pretty ordinary. Then perhaps the habit stuck even as they brought in more of their own women. Or maybe the habit flourished at the frontier as they expanded slowly across Britannia.

    (And my golly it was slow. The Germans eventually lost control in one afternoon at Hastings, followed by a few years of mopping up. It had taken them ages to get control in the first place. Why the disparity?)

    • That is roughly the scenario Thomas et al. seem to envisage, indeed. The problem with it for most people on the minimalist side is that it still needs quite a large immigrant population, large enough eventually to control the reproductive practice of pretty much the whole sitting population. Also, there is some more subtle social engineering visible in the Laws of Ine, where the Welsh have a lower tariff of compensation than the English, so that claiming ‘English’ status might look like a good idea, but nothing like this kind of total control. And, of course, in 685-710 (Ine’s reign) there were apparently still Welsh in the kingdom, so a lot of people hadn’t yet made that choice, and any reproductive strategy must, as you say, have been very slow. How many different incomers and incomer-descendants must have been fixated, silently, on this goal for centuries on end without any of them expressing it where we have a record? So I am just not sure that this is the simplest answer, and would like another way to read the DNA evidence (which, of course, Pattinson thinks there is).

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