410-1066 CE: What should we call the period (at least so far as Surrey is concerned)?

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Snippets of ‘Saxon’ Surrey – Godalming/Tuesley to be precise – as seen in Godalming Museum in January 2017

Midway through last month, I finished editing my first Surrey Archaeological Society Medieval Studies Forum Newsletter. I’m pretty proud of the finished product, if I do say so myself! You’ll have to join the Forum to enjoy the whole thing, but I thought I’d share something from it on Surrey Medieval. In fact, I’ve added to the published piece, written as an attempt to answer to the misleadingly simple question posed in the title of this post. All the usual suspects are given the once-over: Early Medieval and Middle Ages, Anglo-Saxon, Late Antiquity, even Dark Ages (but anyone expecting to see a weighing of the merits of the label “The Age of Arthur” or cognates need read no further). Click here to read it – but maybe read the following first…

As I hope is clear from my title, whether it is explicitly stated or not, the discussion throughout is geared primarily around evaluating the merits of various labels in terms of the archaeology and history of Surrey rather than England or some other wider historical geographical area. Notwithstanding this fact, it does offer some more general commentary as well. In doing so, it follows in the footsteps of —nay, is overshadowed by— some truly excellent recent contributions from several scholars of whose research I am a great admirer. So, as much as anything, it serves as a place where links and references to a number of important pieces are collected together.

What I’m hoping is that we’re witnessing at least the start of a shift change in the choices of words and phrases used when writing about the archaeology and history of the period (NB. I largely omitted issues surrounding linguistics in the piece because I was writing originally for an audience consisting primarily of amateur historians and archaeologists). Just because the issues are complex and may in the end require a break with what has gone before doesn’t mean we should shy away from the task. The vibrant and vital contemporary discourses around choices of terminology concerning gender and sexuality show how the considered (re)evaluation of terminology can lead to changes for the better — though not always consensus! Indeed, my piece perhaps does not offer as many hard-and-fast conclusions as you might expect, and and is certainly not intended to be any last word on the matter. With this in mind, maybe think of it more as a setting down and sharing of my opinions at the present point in time. I’ve changed my mind and my praxis in recent years, and no doubt will to do so again in the future!

 

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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 Anglo-Saxon, Archaeology, Architecture, Dating, History, Language, Middlesex, Soapbox, Surrey, Sussex, Viking and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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