Britain Begins by Barry Cunliffe

Britain-Begins-Barry-CunliffeBritain Begins by Barry Cunliffe

Paperback: 568 pages
Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (January 1, 2014)
ISBN-10: 0199679452

Product Description:

The last Ice Age, which came to an end about 12,000 years ago, swept the bands of hunter gatherers from the face of the land that was to become Britain and Ireland, but as the ice sheets retreated and the climate improved so human groups spread slowly northwards, re-colonizing the land that had been laid waste. From that time onwards Britain and Ireland have been continuously inhabited and the resident population has increased from a few hundreds to more than 60 million.

Britain Begins is nothing less than the story of the origins of the British and the Irish peoples, from around 10,000BC to the eve of the Norman Conquest. Using the most up to date archaeological evidence together with new work on DNA and other scientific techniques which help us to trace the origins and movements of these early settlers, Barry Cunliffe offers a rich narrative account of the first islanders – who they were, where they came from, and how they interacted one with another. Underlying this narrative throughout is the story of the sea, which allowed the islanders and their continental neighbours to be in constant contact.

The story told by the archaeological evidence, in later periods augmented by historical texts, satisfies our need to know who we are and where we come from. But before the development of the discipline of archaeology, people used what scraps there were, gleaned from Biblical and classical texts, to create a largely mythological origin for the British. Britain Begins also explores the development of these early myths, which show our ancestors attempting to understand their origins. And, as Cunliffe shows, today’s archaeologists are driven by the same desire to understand the past – the only real difference is that we have vastly more evidence to work with.

Rating: 4.5 stars on Amazon (21 reviews)

Morcar, Earl of Northumbria

Morcar was the Earl of Northumbria from 1065-1066. He was the son of Ælfgar (earl of Mercia) and brother of Eadwine (or Edwin), earl of Mercia. He was the grandson of Leofric and Godiva. Morcar rose to power at the appointment of the thegns in York due to the tyrannical rule of Tostig, the brother of Harold Godiwnson and son of Earl Godwin of Wessex. Tostig was an incapable leader, and Harold banished him due to the surmounting pressure of the thegns, and he officially appointed Morcar as Earl of Northumbria.

According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle:

They then sent after Morkar, son of Earl Elgar, and chose him for their earl.  He went south with all the shire, and with Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire and Lincolnshire, till he came to Northampton; where his brother Edwin came to meet him with the men that were in his earldom.  Many Britons also came with him.  Harold also there met them; on whom they imposed an errand to King Edward, sending also messengers with him, and requesting that they might have Morcar for their earl.

Tostig later returned with Harald Hardrada, King of Norway, to challenge Morcar and his brother Edwin. Tostig and Harald defeated the two brothers at Fulford on September 20, 1066.

And Morcar the earl, and Edwin the earl, fought against them; and the king of the Norwegians had the victory.  And it was made known to King Harold how it there was done, and had happened; and he came there with a great army of English men, and met him at Stanfordbridge, and slew him and the earl Tosty, and boldly overcame all the army.

Harold Godwinson, then King Harold of England following Edward the Confessor’s death earlier in the year, raced north to protect his earls, defeating Tostig and Harald at the Battle of Stamford Bridge on September 28. After the battle, Harold immediately marched south to meet the invading forces of William of Normandy. Edwin and Morcar were both reluctant to join Harold, and instead went to London after the battle in most likely an attempt to seek the English throne for themselves. Eventually, they agreed to the Witan’s decision to elect Edgar the Etheling as king, though Edgar was never officially crowned as such. Duke William, instead, was crowned King of England, and both Edwin and Morcar submitted to his rule.

And the while, William the earl landed at Hastings, on St. Michael’s-day: and Harold came from the north, and fought against him before all his army had come up: and there he fell, and his two brothers, Girth and Leofwin; and William subdued this land.

From 1067-1068, Edwin and Morcar and Edgar the Etheling lived in Normandy as hostages of William. When they were finally allowed to return to the earldoms in England, they fomented rebellion against William. The Duke of Normandy eventually crushed their rebellion. Edwin’s own men betrayed and killed him. William captured Morcar, imprisoning him in Normandy for a second time.

In 1087, William released Morcar, who returned to England with William Rufus. Rufus imprisoned Morcar at Winchester, where he supposedly died.

History of Trick-or-Treating

From History.com:

Trick-or-treating—going from house to house in search of candy and other goodies—has been a popular Halloween tradition in the United States and other countries for an estimated 100 years. But the origins of this community-based ritual, which costumed children typically savor while their cavity-conscious parents grudgingly tag along, remain hazy. Possible forerunners to modern-day trick-or-treating have been identified in ancient Celtic festivals, early Roman Catholic holidays, medieval practices and even British politics.

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Medieval Mass and Music

The following article explores the components of the medieval mass and its music.

From the-orb.net:

The present essay describes the Mass as celebrated in Latin Christianity during the Middle Ages. It assumes the full complement of clergy (priests, clerics in what are known as “minor orders,” and non-clerical assistants) needed to carry out the complex ceremonies of the Mass at a cathedral or large monastic church. A choir of monks or canons under the direction of the cantor provided all of the music, solo and choral. This would have been sung in chant but occasionally embellished by simple improvised polyphony. In a house of women religious all of the musical roles would have been assumed by the nuns, but ecclesiastical custom required that the ministers serving at the altar be male.

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Bone found at English abbey could be King Alfred the Great

From Fox News:

British archeologists are hoping they have discovered partial remains of the ninth-century’s King Alfred the Great at a medieval abbey in southwest England.

Preliminary tests suggest that a pelvic bone found in a museum box is either Alfred, or his son, Kind Edward the Elder. The bone was among remains excavated some 15 years ago at an abbey in Winchester, England, but they were never tested. Instead they were stored in a box at Winchester Museum until archeologists recently came across them.

“The bone is likely to be one of them, I wouldn’t like to say which one,” Kate Tucker, a researcher in human osteology from the University of Winchester told Reuters. Researchers say that, given the historical record, bones that old could only have come from Alfred or his family.

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Medieval history term of the week: Mainmorte

Mainmorte

Mortmain. The lord’s right to a share of his men’s personal estate after death. (Duby, Georges. Rural Economy and Country Life in the Medieval West, 555)

*term retrieved from Netserf Medieval Glossary 

From the Statute of Quia Emptores, 1290, on the buying and selling of land

And if he shall have sold to anyone any part of those his lands or tenements, the infeudated person shall hold that (part) directly of the lord in chief, and shall straightway be charged with as much service as pertains or ought to pertain to that lord for that parcel, according to the quantity of the land or tenement sold; and so in this case there shall fall away from the lord in chief that part of the service which is to be performed by the hand of the infeudator, from the time when the infeudated person ought to be attendant and answerable to that same lord in chief, according to the quantity of the land or tenement sold, for that parcel of service thus due. And it must be known that by the said sales or purchases of lands or tenements, or any part of them, those lands or tenements in part or in whole, may not come into mortmain, by art or by wile, contrary to the statute recently issued on this point.

The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade


The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade

By Susan Wise Bauer

Hardcover: 746 pages
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (February 22, 2010)
ISBN-10: 0393059758

Book Description:

A masterful narrative of the Middle Ages, when religion became a weapon for kings all over the world.

From the schism between Rome and Constantinople to the rise of the T’ang Dynasty, from the birth of Muhammad to the crowning of Charlemagne, this erudite book tells the fascinating, often violent story of kings, generals, and the peoples they ruled.

In her earlier work, The History of the Ancient World, Susan Wise Bauer wrote of the rise of kingship based on might. But in the years between the fourth and the twelfth centuries, rulers had to find new justification for their power, and they turned to divine truth or grace to justify political and military action. Right thus replaces might as the engine of empire.

Not just Christianity and Islam but the religions of the Persians and the Germans, and even Buddhism, are pressed into the service of the state. This phenomenon—stretching from the Americas all the way to Japan—changes religion, but it also changes the state.

Avg customer review on Amazon: 4.5 stars (49 reviews)

Anglo-Saxon coffin uncovered in Lincoln Castle

From Culture24:

Experts say a shoe-wearing skeleton, found as part of an excavation on a church beneath Lincoln Castle dating back at least 1,000 years, should reveal much about the Saxon city ahead of radiocarbon dating on its hidden coffin

The bones of a holy figure, still wearing shoes and initially wrapped in a finely-woven textile, have been found buried within a wall beneath Lincoln Castle in a discovery pointing to the remains of a church dating to “at least” 1,000 years ago, according to experts.

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Berkhamsted Castle

A brief history:

Berkhamsted Castle is a Norman motte-and-bailey castle at Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire, England. The castle was built during the Norman conquest of England in the 11th century to control a key route between London and the Midlands. Robert of Mortain, William the Conqueror’s half brother, was probably responsible for the construction and became the subsequent owner of the fortification. A motte and bailey design, the castle was surrounded by extensive protective earthworks and a deer park for hunting. The future town of Berkhamsted grew up alongside it. Subsequent kings granted the castle to their chancellors and it was substantially extended in the mid-12th century, probably by Thomas Becket.

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