What Made the Anglo-Saxons Capable of Conquering the Britons?

Nov 2008
1,401
England
I don't know if they are mentioned in the sources so how long were anglo saxon men interacting with british women?
Those Saxon foederati or mercenaries who were probably the first to arrive would have no doubt have taken British wives and girlfriends. That is an example of the settled order of nature. How long this "love in" lasted is another question.

We know that Ine's law refers to the king's welsh horse messenger so, there is an example of some britons being placed in a position of trust
We must not be too eager to regard this Welsh horseman in the king`s service as an important man. He may well have been no more than a messenger, but one who spoke Brittonic and who interacted with Ine`s new British subjects. The fact that he was given a relatively high wergild may have reflected that he was in the king`s service. I suspect King Ine`s slaves also commanded a higher wergild than those owned by gesiths.
 
Mar 2015
1,450
Yorkshire
We must not be too eager to regard this Welsh horseman in the king`s service as an important man. He may well have been no more than a messenger, but one who spoke Brittonic and who interacted with Ine`s new British subjects. The fact that he was given a relatively high wergild may have reflected that he was in the king`s service. I suspect King Ine`s slaves also commanded a higher wergild than those owned by gesiths.
I suggest we are giving too much wergild to this one-off piece of information. Laws are written to serve a purpose. In Ine's time (late 7th Century, Britons clearly were a factor in his realm which was important enough to need attention. This is understandable since recent expansion of Wessex in the West had suddenly brought large numbers of Britons into its jurisdiction. Naturally as a successful King of an expansionist power Ine wanted to incorporate these Britons into his society to increase his economic wealth and military might without offending the Saxon Earls and Coerls on whom he depended.

ine's Laws were not the first. The Kentish Laws, started in early years of the 600s with Ethelberht, appear to have been the first Laws written in the vernacular by any Germanic tribe. The first Laws concern similar issues seen in the later Laws of Ine and again deal with wergild and compensation for the various classes in Society. However there is not one mention of Briton or Welsh. Hlothere\Eadric add to the Law with provisions for trade with foreigners taking place in London - still no mention of Britons. Lastly the law of Wihred with emphasis on dues to the Church and Sunday observance - again no mention of Welsh.

So I think it is reasonable to conclude that in the older (and richer) Kingdom of Kent either there were negligible numbers of Britons or they had been assimilated by AD 600.
 
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authun

Ad Honorem
Aug 2011
5,219
We must not be too eager to regard this Welsh horseman in the king`s service as an important man. He may well have been no more than a messenger,
I used the term 'position of trust' and the fact the position is legally defined suggests that there must have been a number of these trusted britons.
 

authun

Ad Honorem
Aug 2011
5,219
Those Saxon foederati or mercenaries who were probably the first to arrive would have no doubt have taken British wives and girlfriends. That is an example of the settled order of nature. How long this "love in" lasted is another question.
My point about the period in time and the length of contact made in my post #300 exactly. If anglo saxons were accustomed to taking british wives from the outset, it is unlikely that they would stop later. There is no suggestion that anglo saxons migrated in families and when women started to migrate, something which is unrecorded. they most likely arrived in a land where intermarriage was well established and there may have been two or three generations of anglo saxon males born to british women by the end of the first third of the 6th century.
 
Mar 2015
1,450
Yorkshire
My point about the period in time and the length of contact made in my post #300 exactly. If anglo saxons were accustomed to taking british wives from the outset, it is unlikely that they would stop later. There is no suggestion that anglo saxons migrated in families and when women started to migrate, something which is unrecorded. they most likely arrived in a land where intermarriage was well established and there may have been two or three generations of anglo saxon males born to british women by the end of the first third of the 6th century.
This is unwarranted speculation.

The evidence, such as we have, does not support this theory. West Heslington was a large, Angle settlement, In East Yorkshire established early about 475AD, there were many female burials, all of which are typically germanic, several with unique artefacts only found in Schleswig- Holstein but also others typical of southern Norway\Sweden. Tooth enamel indicates that many of these ladies were not born locally. Furthermore, there are indications of new migrants entering this community from the Continent over a period of 150 years, some of whom are low status women who appear to have been born in Norway.

There is occasionally a "British artefact" in a female A-S burial but these are few and far between and like the odd Roman finds in these graves are not direct evidence of a "British wife".

We have been discussing language and as we all agree language is taught by the mother. If these A-S societies had been dominated by a large number of British women then surely we have the situation of the Vikings in Russia for example where within three generations Norse disappears or Rollo's Vikings in Normandy.
 
Nov 2008
1,401
England
I used the term 'position of trust' and the fact the position is legally defined suggests that there must have been a number of these trusted britons.
Oh, I agree. However, the Indian scouts in Custer`s 7th Cavalry were in a position of trust, and they must have been afforded some legal protection. The point I`m making is those Welsh horsemen in Ine`s service were afforded a relatively high wergild may have been because they were royal servants.

If anglo saxons were accustomed to taking british wives from the outset, it is unlikely that they would stop later. T
Not necessarily. We know there was a Saxon revolt in Britain a few years before 450, and there was enmity between the newcomers and the Britons after this tome as Gildas informs us. The Adventus Saxonum may well have begun just after this time, and Saxon women would have been available for any lusty Saxon warriors. Combine the two events, and consider what seems probable. Coates`s minimal contact model strengthens the point I`m making.
 

Peter Graham

Ad Honorem
Jan 2014
2,618
Westmorland
You could have included the notion of a bi-lingual Welsh king. Anyway, the politics of princes and kings( diplomacy, treaties and such like) has nothing do with the theories of language contact which Richard Coates proposes. Indeed, it is really a fallacious and delusive argument.

As for Penda`s name, I`m inclined to believe it is Germanic in origin.
For the avoidance of any doubt, I do think that some Welsh kings were bilingual.

It's not at all a fallacious argument. If you are arguing that Anglo-Saxons had as little contact with Brittonic as possible, it is entirely fair to point out that the notion of an English king who went to the trouble to learn how to speak Brittonic is seriously at odds with that. Language contact has everything to do with the politics or princes and kings, as it is the socio-political situation which determines important initial questions such as which language is prestigious and which is not and the extent and nature of contact between speakers of different languages.

We've had the Penda argument before, as I recall. You think the first part of his name derives from a hypothetical, but unattested reconstructed element meaning something like 'shield' or 'spear' (can't remember which), whereas I think it is the well-attested Brittonic pen, meaning 'head' (as in Pendragon).
 

Peter Graham

Ad Honorem
Jan 2014
2,618
Westmorland
My point about the period in time and the length of contact made in my post #300 exactly. If anglo saxons were accustomed to taking british wives from the outset, it is unlikely that they would stop later. There is no suggestion that anglo saxons migrated in families and when women started to migrate, something which is unrecorded. they most likely arrived in a land where intermarriage was well established and there may have been two or three generations of anglo saxon males born to british women by the end of the first third of the 6th century.
This is an important point when we consider Aelf's question of the limited extent of borrowing of Brittonic place-names. There are very few early English pace names which we could confidently assign to the fifth century. The earliest stratum of known English place-name elements, such as ham, were probably given in the sixth century (Margaret Gelling discussed the chronology of early place name elements at length in Signposts to the Past). If we'd already had several generations of intermarriage and assimilation by then, the lack of Brittonic place names may simply be one consequence of language change being well advanced by the time they were coined.
 

authun

Ad Honorem
Aug 2011
5,219
This is unwarranted speculation.
They were my comments on Aelfwine's statement and his question 'how long?'

"Those Saxon foederati or mercenaries who were probably the first to arrive would have no doubt have taken British wives and girlfriends. That is an example of the settled order of nature. How long this "love in" lasted is another question."

If the starting point is germanic male warriors coming to britain taking british wives, a point on which Aelfwine has 'no doubt', and the end point is settled anglo saxon families, what is the proposed chain of events that join those two points? When do germanic women start to settle? When do they arrive in numbers? At what point in time do the number of females migrating equal the numbers of males migrating.? What are the numbers of the mixed anglo saxon/british families at that time? This is not speculating. They are questions which follow the suggestion. We do not have enough data to provide clear answers.

I am fully familiar with the case of West Heslerton having been in personal correspondence with Paul Budd when his paper was published in Antiquity in 2004 and also in personal correspondence with Janet Montgomery, when the multidisciplinary study was published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology in 2005. Budd's study ran into problems and ended using only some ambiguous data on oxygen isotopes. Montgomery's study was on the strontium isotopes and it was then extended to include archeological disciplines. I have also publically debated with Dominic Powlesland following a lecture of his on West Heslerton, which omitted Budd's comments in his Toronto conference which explained the shortcomings of his study and which also conflicted with Montgomery's findings. The debate with DP was about his rejection of Philip Rahtz's paper in Antiquity which summarised the West Heslerton Conference which was attended by 'some 50 well known archaologists' in 2001. DP took exception to Rahtz's view that "Although DP stressed his own belief in continuity, it was generally seen more as one of continuity of place, with a dichotomy between ‘late Romans’ and the new settlers". DP's belief in continuity led him to reject findings such as Charlotte Precious and Maggie Darling's findings that, "no links could be found between the late Roman pottery and the Anglian that followed - nothing ‘sub-Roman’; the general impression is still of a social and economic collapse in the latest 4th-early 5th century".

Powlesland's views reject the views of his peer archaeologists and reject the findings of the science, however West Heslerton studies do not demonstrate an example of a purely migrant community. Neither Budd nor Montgomery make that claim. Montgomery's conclusion is limited to her statement that there is "no clear support for the exclusively male, military-elite invasion model at this site."

Just as the earlier osteological evidence suggested two groups, the 32 skeletons examined too showed two groups, a local and a non local group. The origin of the non local group is suggested as continental through on the basis of the grave goods as on their own, the isotopic results overlap with Scotland and are therefore not definitive. However, there is no data on whether the local group are migrants or not, nor could it be. We cannot distinguish between britons and locally born offspring of migrants. They are just local, that's all we know. The graves tested do not represent a single migration event and span 150 years. We have continuous migration into the community. There are two date ranges acccording to calibration. The table below gives the upper and lower limits of those calbrations. Only 22 of the 32 graves were dated:

table5.jpg


The sexing of the local and non local groups does not allow us to conclude that men and women came over in equal numbers at the same time or which women were british and which were germanic. Some are germanic, but we cannot say all were germanic.

table4.jpg


It is interesting to see that both local and non local groups contain weapons and that women and juveniles are buried with weapons.
 
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authun

Ad Honorem
Aug 2011
5,219
Oh, I agree. However, the Indian scouts in Custer`s 7th Cavalry were in a position of trust, and they must have been afforded some legal protection. The point I`m making is those Welsh horsemen in Ine`s service were afforded a relatively high wergild may have been because they were royal servants.
I would have thought that royal servants were selected because they were trustworthy. Whilst it is probably correct to say that it is their position is the reason for the higher wergelf value, it does not follow that they were regarded as lowly or menial. Why assume that? If the relationship between anglo saxons and britons was characterised by emnity as you have claimed, why would one entrust a potential spy or traitor with messages? Even if the man was illiterate and a blithering idiot, he can be intercepted and quizzed.


The Adventus Saxonum may well have begun just after this time, and Saxon women would have been available for any lusty Saxon warriors. Combine the two events, and consider what seems probable. Coates`s minimal contact model strengthens the point I`m making.
But Coates evaluates the linguistic effects of acculturation and mass migration models, he does not investigate the linguistic effects of chain migration and there is data to suggest that immigration lasted several generations.