No catches, no fine print just unadulterated book loving, with your favourite books saved to your own digital bookshelf.
New members get entered into our monthly draw to win £100 to spend in your local bookshop Plus lots lots more…Find out more
Archaeologies and histories of the fens of eastern England, continue to suggest, explicitly or by implication, that the early medieval fenland was dominated by the activities of north-west European colonists in a largely empty landscape. Using existing and new evidence and arguments, this new interdisciplinary history of the Anglo-Saxon fenland offers another interpretation. The fen islands and the silt fens show a degree of occupation unexpected a few decades ago. Dense Romano-British settlement appears to have been followed by consistent early medieval occupation on every island in the peat fens and across the silt fens, despite the impact of climatic change. The inhabitants of the region were organised within territorial groups in a complicated, almost certainly dynamic, hierarchy of subordinate and dominant polities, principalities and kingdoms. Their prosperous livelihoods were based on careful collective control, exploitation and management of the vast natural water-meadows on which their herds of cattle grazed. This was a society whose origins could be found in prehistoric Britain, and which had evolved through the period of Roman control and into the post-imperial decades and centuries that followed. The rich and complex history of the development of the region shows, it is argued, a traditional social order evolving, adapting and innovating in response to changing times.
Most people believe that traditional landscapes did not survive the collapse of Roman Britain, and that medieval open fields and commons originated in Anglo-Saxon innovations unsullied by the past. The argument presented here tests that belief by contrasting the form and management of early medieval fields and pastures with those of the prehistoric and Roman landscapes they are supposed to have superseded. The comparison reveals unexpected continuities in the layout and management of arable and pasture from the fourth millennium BC to the Norman Conquest. The results suggest a new paradigm: the collective organisation of agricultural resources originated many centuries, perhaps millennia, before Germanic migrants reached Britain. In many places, medieval open fields and common rights over pasture preserved long-standing traditions for organising community assets. In central, southern England, a negotiated compromise between early medieval lords eager to introduce new managerial structures and communities as keen to retain their customary traditions of landscape organisation underpinned the emergence of nucleated settlements and distinctive, highly-regulated open fields.