Reconsidering the Anglo-Saxon “Conquest” — and an update

Last week, I mentioned a couple of interesting books I’ve been reading in researching the era of The Pendragon Chronicles, and I had a request for more info. So I will try to provide a brief summary before I continue on to my writing update.

Both books treat the era of the so-called “Dark Ages” in Britain, dark because we have so few written records from the period. One of the few is “The Ruin and Conquest of Britain” by Gildas, a jeremiad written in Latin, which truly does paint a very bleak picture of the era in which he lived. As to the dating, it must have been written before 547 AD, since one of the contemporary tyrants he addresses, Maelgwn, is supposed to have died in a plague which struck Britain in about 547. But Gildas, a monk, had an agenda, to chastize the contemporary kings he addresses, and persuade them to turn away from their sins.

Gildas’s little rant has had a big effect on the way the fifth and sixth centuries are portrayed in history, the time during which Britain transformed from primarily Roman-British to primarily Anglo-Saxon, at least culturally. The two books I’m reading right now argue that Britain wasn’t overrun by invaders during this period, and the transition was less a “conquest” and more a cultural shift. One of the books, Britain AD by Francis Pryor, makes the argument based on archeological evidence, primarily the lack of wholesale destruction an invasion would entail, as well as gradual changes in use of sites that were originally Roman-British so that they began to seem more “Anglo-Saxon” in character. This, he argues, is the pattern seen when there is a change in the ruling elite rather than a wholesale invasion. Makes a lot of sense to me, given all the research I’ve done for previous books in The Pendragon Chronicles. One of my main resources for Yseult and Shadow of Stone, Christopher Snyder’s An Age of Tyrants, also argued for a more gradual change from Roman Britain to Anglo-Saxon England, from an archeological standpoint as well, given how many major Roman cities seemed to have survived far into the fifth century and beyond.

The other book I’m reading now, The Origins of the British by Stephen Oppenheimer, makes a similar argument based on a combination of linguistic evidence and DNA. While I’m not completely convinced yet by his linguistic analysis, his comparisons between genetic markers in England and northern Germany are fascinating. He says there is definitely a genetic divide between the so-called “Celtic fringe” and the rest of England, but he also points out a difference between southern Britain and those areas regarded as “Anglo-Saxon.” Oppenheimer then examines a much longer history of immigration to Britain which has led to these differences — including Iberian, Viking and Norman — as well as Germanic. He argues that all of those waves of immigration contributed in different ways to the genetic differences between eastern and western Britain. He concludes that the “intrusion” (from a genetic standpoint) from traditional Anglo-Saxon areas is only about 5.5% in England.

Fascinating stuff — at least for me. 🙂

Now on to recent progress. Here’s a visual:

Presents

I wrapped all those presents in the last couple of days. And while you may not be able to appreciate it from the side, I like to make my presents pretty, and it took me a while.

Still also working on organizing gifts for friends and family. So I was very surprised when I checked my word counts today, to discover that I’ve managed another 1500 words on Amber’s story since Wednesday, as well as a couple hundred more words in notes and ideas on A Wasted Land. Not too shabby, given all those presents stacked on the shelf! Of course, I would like to be producing more, but Christmas takes its toll. 🙂

And here’s a final pic, just because the sunset today was so pretty, and I probably wouldn’t even have noticed it if one of my granddaughters hadn’t pointed it out, since I was in the wrong part of the room.

Sunset

Hope everyone else is successfully surviving the holiday season!

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13 thoughts on “Reconsidering the Anglo-Saxon “Conquest” — and an update”

  1. Surviving, yes, good way to put it, LOL! Color me impressed at the wrapping! I still haven’t picked out Christmas cards! I have most of my shopping done, and that’s good for me! The holidays do make it tough to keep up with the regular stuff, so you did well to get done what you did – keep up the good work and have a great week!

  2. Oooh – thanks for the update on the books. They definitely sound interesting! Wow, you read fast! I’m so slow with history – I’m still making my way through the last Anglo Saxon book you posted.

    Wow, I’m impressed at your Christmas fortitude! I’m trying to finish getting gifts together, so I ventured out into holiday traffic today. Ugh!

    Beautiful sunset!

    1. Well, I don’t read from cover to cover, Xina. I pick out the chapters that sound most interesting for my research, and that’s what I read. And I’m not done yet either, with any of them. 🙂 Reading them all parallel!

    1. I am constitutionally incapable of putting the whole present thing off to the last minute, since I absolutely HATE shopping in crowds. AND I like have a Christmas tree with lots of presents around it. 🙂

  3. Wow! That is an absolutely stunning sunset. It would have been a shame to miss that.

    Shopping. Yeah. Um. *scratches head* Haven’t even started. See, I absolutely hate shopping unless it’s at the farm store or office supply store (or a bookstore, of course, oh, and my favorite wine shop). So I tend to put if off far too long. Plus, I overthink it. Really. Makes my brain want to explode.

    1. Cool, Emily, hope she enjoys the books! Although these are primarily about the transition from Celtic-British-Roman to Anglo-Saxon in Britain. But maybe she’s interested in the fringes of Celtic history as well. 🙂

  4. Pingback: 2014 SAXON CROWN

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