Writing the Welsh borderlands in Anglo-Saxon England

Lindy Brady
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The Welsh borderlands were a distinctive territory where two peoples came together throughout the Anglo-Saxon period. It was here that men skilled at law drew up the Dunsate Agreement, to solve the impending problems with cattle theft. This book explores what sets the Dunsate Agreement apart from other Anglo-Saxon law codes grappling with cattle theft, highlighting that creators of this document, and the community that it concerns, included both Anglo-Saxons and Welsh. It argues that the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle represents the military culture of the Welsh borderlands in a distinctive way which aligns its inhabitants with outlaws. The book articulates a discernible culture in the Welsh borderlands prior to 1066. Bede's The Historia Ecclesiastica has long been interpreted as a narrative of Anglo/British strife. His rancour towards the pagan Mercians provides substantial information about the life of Penda of Mercia, whose entire reign over this borderlands kingdom was defined by consistent political and military unity with Welsh rulers. Expanding on the mixed culture, the book examines the various Latin and Old English Lives of the popular Anglo-Saxon saint, Guthlac of Crowland. Vernacular literary tradition reveals a group of Old English riddles that link the 'dark Welsh' to agricultural labour through the cattle they herd, and who have long been understood to show the Welsh as slaves. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is frequently cited as a paradigm of Anglo/Welsh antagonism. The book reveals that the impact of the Norman Conquest on the Anglo-Welsh border region was much greater than previously realised.

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Winner of the SEMA award for best first book, 2020


‘This is an important book for students of early British history and Old English literature. The scholarship is rigorous and extensive, fitting key primary sources into a carefully worked out historical and chronological arrangement to produce some genuinely new interpretations.'
Helen Fulton, University of Bristol
The Medieval Review

‘Through critically informed, historicist readings of representative Old English prose and poetry from the eighth to the twelfth centuries, Brady develops a new picture of a multiethnic, multilingual borderland between England and Wales… Carefully framed within postcolonial and border studies, this study of the Welsh borderlands, both as an ethos and as a discrete geographical region, is essential to our understanding of early English identity and of the deep history of multicultural Britain.
Journal of English and Germanic Philology
February 2020

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