England and the Atlantic archipelago
From Alfred to the Norman Conquest
in Debating medieval Europe
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This chapter examines the British Isles from the late ninth to the mid-eleventh century, and begins with a discussion of state formation, in which England has been argued to be precociously bureaucratized in comparison with its close neighbours. It sets out the debate concerning ‘English exceptionalism’ – whether later Anglo-Saxon England was, in fact, an embryonic ‘nation-state’, considering the nature of English governmentality as systematic and intensive. It considers to what extent a parallel phenomenon can be detected in Scotland, whereas elsewhere in the British Isles similar processes do not seem to have been at work, though temporary hegemonies did emerge. In terms of identity, it considers to what extent regional identities survived alongside the intentional cultivation of an ‘English’ identity by a political elite in the tenth century. Finally, it addresses the question of the Christianization of the British Isles, particularly with reference to the areas with most extensive Scandinavian settlement, and the monastic reform movements of the tenth century that connected the Anglo-Saxon Church with continental trends.

Debating medieval Europe

The early Middle Ages, c. 450 –c. 1050

Editor: Stephen Mossman

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