“No study seems more liable to draw off the mind from serious matters, than that of Antiquities – it has the dangerously plausible character of being a harmless pursuit”
Antiquarian William Bateman in a letter to Joseph Hunter dated January 1829, quoted in Richard Hodges’ Wall-to-Wall History: The Story of Roystone Grange (London: Duckworth, 1991)
WordPress just told me this site is now five years old, so it seems a good time to provide a fresh summary of what Surrey Medieval is about. Some things remain true from when I set it up way back, others have changed or been introduced in the years since.
After years of being asked what I study and what I class myself as, and not being able to offer a short and snappy answer, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m an early medievalist; I like studying things at the earlier end of the medieval period, predominantly in England, but not to the total exclusion of other parts of the world. (Corollary to this has been establishing with some questioners that the medieval period wasn’t “the time before the Romans” or “about 1600-and-something”!) That doesn’t mean I have no time for the detailed insights provided by late medieval documentary sources when it comes to attempting reconstructions of past institutions and landscapes, but I always have one eye looking backwards, thinking how they originated or operated in earlier centuries. Likewise, I can’t help but be fascinated by pre-medieval eras, from the sheer time depth of the stone ages through to the sheer brilliance of some aspects of Roman culture. Here again, however, my greatest interest is in those things that endured beyond the Roman period into the fifth and sixth centuries CE and later.
Whatever the years, centuries, or periods in question, in all my research I strive to combine multiple types of evidence, be it archaeological, historical, linguistic, geographical, or “other”… Part and parcel of this inter-disciplinary approach is to avoid prematurely judging one type as being superior to others – with a period like the early medieval, one strand of evidence is rarely enough to build anything like a comprehensive picture of a given place or phenomenon. Plus, I couldn’t live with myself if I was to focus on one thing knowing full well there’s so much else of equal interest and insight that can be brought to the table! Hopefully, this is what shines through in the content I produce for Surrey Medieval. I may never serve up a detailed codicological account of a manuscript or a scientific analysis of excavated charred plant remains, but I hope I convey to visitors the breadth of my interests and why the medieval period fascinates me so.
I created Surrey Medieval in Spring 2011, born partly out of an acknowledgement that I should raise my game after a while out of academic circles (and living a long way from Surrey), and partly because I didn’t want to be one of those researchers who doesn’t share with the wider world what I discover or think. I had an idea that the site should have a threefold purpose. First, to showcase the outputs of my previous and current research, be they articles, essays, or datasets. Second, as a means of lodging interesting things, normally but not always on a medieval and/or historical topic. Finally, on a more practical note, I thought visitors to the site might appreciate thematically-grouped links that in time might serve as a one-stop shop for what I have found to be the most useful medieval sites. Dozens of posts and pages later, I think that it still adheres to these goals on all three fronts. (I Googled “Surrey medieval” before setting up this account and can say with the utmost confidence that each and every link I post aims to be better than this namesake.)
I signed off the original 2011 version of this introduction with the acknowledgement that I had a lot of work to do to get Surrey Medieval off the ground and flourishing, but also a lament that I had a pile of work shirts waiting to be ironed. In the years since, non-medieval jobs and home cities have come and gone, as well as a year spent at the University of Nottingham doing its wonderful MA course in Viking and Anglo-Saxon Studies (following up on an earlier MA in Medieval Studies at the University of Leeds). I now reside in London – not in a part of the city that formerly fell within the bounds of historic Surrey, I must confess – and study part-time at the Institute of Archaeology at University College London, in the MPhil stage of what will hopefully become a PhD looking at Old English -ingas name formations and the social groups that bore them. You can read a summary of my project on the IoA website – my academic email for all things -ingas and post-Roman social complexity is firstname.lastname@example.org. (I also have an Academia profile which is a link between Surrey Medieval and my academic research.)
I add new bits and pieces to Surrey Medieval on a semi-regular basis, whether on the homepage or via one of the headings: Links, Work, or, reflecting my deep interest of the village I called home for many years, Puttenham. I tweet about updates to this site and plenty more besides as @SurreyMedieval. Lastly, if you ever want to contact me with comments or questions about anything on Surrey Medieval, please do so at email@example.com. Thanks for reading!