Who are the Anglo Saxons

Jan 2014
2,116
Westmorland
I cannot see anything controversial about some Britons becoming renegades and throwing in their lot with the Saxons, particularly during the confusion of the late fifth century . However, from what I have read from papers by Richard Coates and O. J. Padel, it seems unlikely there was much acculturation if any.
I agree with you that there's nothing controversial about Britons throwing in their lot with the Saxons. I was just interested to know how you thought this worked in the context of the mid sixth-century (when Gildas was most likely writing). Did some Britons basically submit to Saxon control to save their necks or did they have some bargaining power in the relationship?

Your point about Coates and Padel is interesting. I have noticed a tendency of place name scholars to be far more aligned with your view of Anglo-British relations (two bitterly opposed factions divided along ethnic lines) whereas many modern archeologists are more aligned with my view (significant movement between two groups with ethnicity being of less importance). Synthetic histories which take in bits from the various disciplines are helpful, but the downside is that synthesists run the risk of being a jack of all trades but master of none. This is hardly surprising - how could any one person have the toponymic knowledge to rival Richard Coates, the linguistic knowledge to rival Patrick Sims-Williams, the knowledge of poetry to rival Marged Haycock, the archaeological knowledge to rival Helen Hamerow, the biological knowledge to rival Stephen Schiffels, the landscape knowledge to rival Susan Oosthuizen and the historical knowledge to rival David Dumville? This is especially the case when the synthesis attempt to make broad points about a wide geographical area. It is increasingly recognised that there was significant regional variation and this brings about another layer of specialisms. The more I study, the less I feel I know.
 

authun

Ad Honorem
Aug 2011
4,674
Place names are not a good tool for the events from the 5th to 7th centuries. The roman economy based on villa estates and urban centres started to break down. It was the introduction of open field agriculture in late Saxon England went hand in hand with the development of villages clustered around a nucleus of church and manor house. The 5th to 7th centuries are characterised by a relatively small number of settlements for which we have no names. The existence of 'eccles' and 'walh' placename elements suggest that there were communities of Britons living in the 8th century in areas where anglo saxon names existed. Bede tells us this as well, but it starts in the 8th cent. We cannot know for sure that these observations can be back projected. Tautological compounds, such as Penhill which uses two elements, one celtic and one germanic, both meaning hill, thus literally 'hill hill', suggest that the anglo saxons knew that the britons called it pen but didn't know what pen meant, so they appended their own word, hill. It suggests some knowledge, but no in depth knowledge.

As far as the archaeology is concerned, we have a gap in the archaeology but we do find british aretfacts in germanic contexts. Heirich Härke in 'Invisible Britons':

" The few types of possibly British (or rather more generally, Celtic) artefact types in post-Roman England have been discussed at length several times. Such artefacts (penannular brooches, hanging bowls and enamelled items) have been recovered exclusively from Anglo-Saxon cultural contexts, and for this and other reasons, they cannot be considered firm proof of the existence of a British population. Even if they were, the native population suggested by the ‘British’ artefacts need not have been large: there are some eighty-five hanging bowls and 110 penannular brooches from Anglo-Saxon contexts (mostly graves), and another forty items with enamel are known from all of post-Roman Britain. This compares with some 30,000 graves from sites with diagnostically Anglo-Saxon material culture of the fifth to seventh centuries. What is in dispute is the interpretation of the ‘black hole’ in relation to the fate of the native Romano-British population. "
 
Last edited:
Jan 2014
2,116
Westmorland
Place names are not a good tool for the events from the 5th to 7th centuries. The roman economy based on villa estates and urban centres started to break down. It was the introduction of open field agriculture in late Saxon England went hand in hand with the development of villages clustered around a nucleus of church and manor house. The 5th to 7th centuries are characterised by a relatively small number of settlements for which we have no names.
I agree that place names are not a great tool for understanding the early Anglo-Saxon period. The origins of the earliest AS forms (such as ham or feld) are not totally clear and although we can establish relative chronologies for place name elements (ham predates ingaham and so on), absolute chronologies remain elusive.

That said, we know of well over two hundred place names which predate Bede's Ecclesiastical History. These derive principally from charters (for the south) and from the small corpus of extended seventh century prose works (for the north). Some of those names are river names and so on, but we do nevertheless have a not insignificant corpus of settlement names which were in existence no later than the seventh century.
 
Jan 2014
2,116
Westmorland
As far as the archaeology is concerned, we have a gap in the archaeology but we do find british aretfacts in germanic contexts. Heirich Härke in 'Invisible Britons':
That may be Harke's view, but one does not have to go far to find alternative explanations which are less overtly ethnicist in character. That doesn't necessarily make Harke wrong, of course. Are you familiar with James Gerrard's recent work on the end of the Roman empire in Britain?
 

authun

Ad Honorem
Aug 2011
4,674
What specific view are you attributing to Härke, that there is a gap in the archaeology or that british artefacts are found in germanic contexts? He goes to make three propositions that might explain the lack of british archaeology.
 
Jan 2014
2,116
Westmorland
Neither. I'm attributing an ethnicist view to him, although I accept that in the article you referenced, he does at least allow the possibility that some of those buried in Anglo-Saxon cemeteries were Britons.
 

authun

Ad Honorem
Aug 2011
4,674
These derive principally from charters (for the south) and from the small corpus of extended seventh century prose works (for the north). Some of those names are river names and so on, but we do nevertheless have a not insignificant corpus of settlement names which were in existence no later than the seventh century.
The earliest anglo saxon charters date to the 670s so we have virtually nothing from the 5th, 6th, and the first three quarters of the 7th centuries. Of the few that are earlier, such as a grant of land at Rochester A.D. 604 (28 April) by Æthelberht, king, to St Andrew and his church at Rochester is not an anglo saxon village but a settlement in or near a former roman fort. The earliest germanic settlements which developed into villages might be inferred from the names of pagan gods, Woden, Thor etc or from shrines, heargh and weoh. I don't know how many germanic placenames are listed in Bede, perhaps you can reference them, but I'd be surprised if the number was comparable with the number of later village names. Below is map which contains just the 'tun' names.

tun_placenames.gif

This a map of the 'kot' placenmes
kot.jpg


This the 'lar' placenames:

lar.jpg

The 'wic' placenames:

wic.jpg


This is just a snapshot of the number of germanic placenames so, when someone suggests 'a not inconsiderable corpus' attributed to the time before Bede, I think a number is required for comparison. I suspect, it will be a tiny number.
 

authun

Ad Honorem
Aug 2011
4,674
Neither. I'm attributing an ethnicist view to him, although I accept that in the article you referenced, he does at least allow the possibility that some of those buried in Anglo-Saxon cemeteries were Britons.

Härke was one of the first to suggest that grave goods did not necessarily imply ethnicity and suggested that Britons may be found in graves associated with a germanic context. One of his first suggestion was that there would be a difference in skeletal length for 1st generation immigrants. He was one of the original acculturalists but later went on to say that things had gone too far and that 'at some point, some ambitious post graduate will argue in papers that no humans ever settled in Britain but that the population was entirely descended fom acculturated reindeer'.
 

Haesten

Ad Honorem
Dec 2011
2,756

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