London to Norwich express

I’ve come to realise there are essentially two types of blog post. The first is the sort that is true to the name, whereby the author(s) log(s) on the web what they have been/are/will be doing. The second exists out of time (though often it is commenced by something that sets it in the context of a particular event or activity), a piece produced to address a topic in brief or at length. Personally, I much prefer writing the latter sort, but this Spring has been so full of significant goings on that I thought some housekeeping was in order, capturing what I’ve been up to this past three months. However, I also realise there’s nothing more off-putting for the casual reader than paragraph after autobiographical paragraph with no unifying thread beyond yours truly. Therefore I have split things into two (and upped the image quota) for what I hope will be a more palatable report of what I’ve been up to lately.

IoA

As good a place as any to start is with the news that I’ve been accepted to commence a PhD based in the Institute of Archaeology at UCL. Kicking off at the end of September, it’s going to be a part-time endeavour at first, with the view to go full-time (and funded!) in the not too distant future. The admission process was surprisingly lengthy (I think one element of my application was accidentally becalmed in someone’s inbox for several weeks) but it’s really exciting to have made good on a long-held ambition and to know that my project is about to get going finally. Well, I’ve been nibbling away at the topic for a good few years so have a firm foundation already, but the academic guidance and resources I will be able to access as part of the IoA will transform it into something much bigger and better.

And what is my project? Embarrassingly, I can’t remember the title I gave my proposal (nor my password to get back into the online portal to find it out!) but in essence it will look at place-names in Old English -ingas in two areas of England: the South-East, and East Anglia. I consider -ingas to be of enormous interest because, in place-name formations, it points to the existence of a group of people (or things) with a significant association with the place and surrounding space to which such names are attached – here’s a summary of some of its occurrences inside and outside of toponymy I put together a few years ago.

My PhD research will hopefully take me to many more places like Tooting in (over)optimistic attempts to determine the original derivation of the place-name from a site visit. (In this case Totterdown Street recalls a field-name which might stem from Old English *tōtærndūn,

My PhD research will take me to many more places like Tooting in (?over)optimistic attempts to determine the original derivation of the place-name from a site visit. (In this case Totterdown Street recalls a field-name which might stem from Old English *tōtærndūn, “look-out building hill”;*tōt has been suggested as the first element in the name Tooting, though other explanations are available and may I add no less credible.)

OE -ingas is one of the great recurrent topics of place-name studies, with a lineage of scholarship stretching back to the great J. M. Kemble in the middle of the nineteenth century. The problem is that, for a generation at least, the question of the identities of these shadowy -ingas groups, that is to say their place or places in time and Anglo-Saxon society, has not been considered in any great detail, despite the major developments in thinking about the Roman to Anglo-Saxon transition. I aim to correct this by going on beyond looking at -ingas simply in terms of its presence or otherwise in name formations and give much more consideration to the topography, archaeology, and history of the places and spaces which are so-named.

Trying to condense a raw PhD project into a couple of short paragraphs ain’t easy, but keep checking back in the coming months and years and you’ll find more detailed explanations of elements of my research (as well as all the usual random off-topic crap). First of these will be a spruced-up version of my Nottingham MA thesis, the scope of which I’ve summarised previously, which has acted as a pilot for the first major segment of my PhD project, the collection and new philological analysis of all possible relevant place-names in the study areas. I was lucky enough to be able to present the results of my dissertation research to the Spring Conference of the Society for Name Studies in Britain and Ireland at the end of March, held at the UEA on the outskirts of Norwich. Many people said many positive things about my presentation, which was even more gratifying given it was one of those conferences where virtually every delegate was someone whose research you admire. I’ll admit the onomastic fanboy in me came out once or twice over the course of the day I was there…

The picture is of Eashing Bridge (well, one of them), and made the front page because Eashing is another name of the -ingas-but-can't-say-for-certain-which-sort sort

The picture is of Eashing Bridge (well, one of them), and made the front page of my presentation because, like Tooting, Eashing is another name of the -ingas-but-can’t-say-for-certain-which-sort sort

At the conference that I was told I’d won the SNSBI essay prize for 2015, for an essay I wrote during my Master’s last year on early-recorded place-names containing OE tun. With a good deal more work to smooth its more iconoclastic edges – though I’m quietly chuffed that I could still cut it as an angry young student with a point to prove/axe to grind – this may be published as a journal article one day. Sometime this century, anyway. My thanks to the anonymous reviewers for their extensive and perceptive comments on my essay, which will greatly assist the process of redrafting, and to those in SNSBI who organise and award the essay prize. I’ve heard on the grapevine that next year’s Spring Conference is being held at Maynooth in Ireland, so why don’t you submit something for the prize and perhaps next year you will find out you won it while on the Emerald Isle?

Norwich was my first SNSBI conference, I hope the catering is always to the same level of fanciness

Norwich was my first SNSBI conference, I hope the catering is always to the same level of fanciness – as exemplified by this pyramidal dessert

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About Robert J S Briggs

Back to being a part-time early medievalist; Surrey born, London based, been known to travel
This entry was posted in Archaeology, PhD, Place-Names and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to London to Norwich express

  1. Many congrats mate, well deserved on all counts..

  2. Sara says:

    Old English place names! Have fun.

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