Update – Estate leasing and the Anglo-Saxon agricultural revolution

I recently obtained a copy of Myth, Rulership, Church and Charters, the 2008 festschrift for Nicholas Brooks, taking advantage of Ashgate’s now-concluded £25 sale (although I later discovered it on Amazon at the same price with free delivery – unfortunately I think they’ve resumed charging something like £80 for it). I was particularly keen to read the paper by Alex Burghart and Andrew Wareham, examining the significance of leasehold arrangements as a stimulus to increased agricultural production and productivity in the mid- to late-Anglo-Saxon period, to assess its relevance to the lænland estates considered by Baxter and consequently in my essay as well.

Although a lease is not the same as a loan, in this context the leasing of landholdings for a specified duration of one or more lifetime (and, it would appear, much shorter periods of time) means it is very relevant to the appraisal of “ministerial” lænlands. That the authors bring their piece to a close by interpreting the intensification of agricultural production as a consequence of the “rapid urbanisation” seen in England in the century and a half or so from circa 900 is of immense interest to the contemporary situation in Woking Hundred given the development of Guildford as a burghal town. It would be unwise to put too much stress upon lænland estates being the key contributors of agricultural surpluses to the new urban centres; in Woking Hundred at least it must be remembered that a number of the bookland estates were held by minor thegns who would have been motivated by the same factors to raise yields and hence profits. All the same, the suggestions made in Burghart and Wareham’s brief paper point to a valuable new direction in which to take the study, one that should incorporate the other Hundreds in the Guildford region.


Alex Burghart & Andrew Wareham, ‘Was there an Agricultural Revolution in Anglo-Saxon England?’, in Myth, Rulership, Church and Charters: Essays in Honour of Nicholas Brooks, ed. by Julia Barrow & Andrew Wareham (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008), 89-99

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