The Welsh borderlands in the
The previous chapters of this book have proposed that the Welsh borderlands had a culture of their own and were understood as a distinct region
by the authors of those early Anglo-Saxon texts that mention this territory.
This chapter moves forward chronologically to the tenth and eleventh
centuries and suggests that political alliance in the Welsh borderlands
during the later Anglo-Saxon period was a significant pattern across time.
The Anglo-SaxonChronicle, a major historical source for the later
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.
implies, there could have been no nineteenth-century Alfredianism if, in the first place, the Saxon king had not
appeared as an impressive and engaging figure in a large body of annals,
chronicles and other documents which could inspire Victorian authors,
artists and popular historians. In order to properly understand why and how
the Victorian cult of King Alfred developed, it is therefore necessary to
survey those materials – to consider the most venerable ancestors of the
Victorian Alfred, from the ninth century to 1800.
The Dunsoete Agreement and daily life in the Welsh borderlands
with the benefit of hindsight.
The arrival of the Anglo-Saxons in Britain looks like a military conquest
when viewed from the perspective of ninth-century Wessex, where the
Anglo-SaxonChronicle was likely begun, or eighth-century Northumbria,
where Bede wrote his Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum. But for those in
the region inhabited by both Welsh and Anglo-Saxons for several centuries
Writing the Welsh borderlands
– the western territories of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia and the
eastern portions of the northern Welsh kingdoms of Gwynedd and Powys
cattle: chattel in early medieval Britain
The argument that the imagery of these riddles alludes to both slaves bound
by Welsh raiders and cattle herded by Welsh labourers draws support from
the frequent equivalence of slaves and animals in both the Anglo-Saxon
textual corpus and Welsh law codes, which makes their parallel captivity in
these riddles a natural one. It has long been noted that slaves were ‘bought
and sold as cattle’16 in Anglo-Saxon England based on sources such as the
Writing the Welsh borderlands
Anglo-SaxonChronicle, which equates the two as
Troubling race, ethnicity, and masculinity in Beowulf
Putting other kinds of dating aside, Damico's argument details one possible act of reception, wherein an element of the poem (Grendel as a terrifying character rampaging around the Danish countryside) could provide a screen on to which early eleventh-century audiences projected their own anxieties about Danish attacks on England. If Grendel and his mother could become a focus for anxieties about Welsh indigeneity, they could certainly fulfil a similar role for Danish invasion. What is more
had disdained Augustine, the spearhead of the English conversion.
Unsurprisingly, these shortcomings heavily influenced how Bede represented the British in relation to the Anglo-Saxons, as shall be demonstrated below.
It is also worth noting that the Anglo-SaxonChronicle (hereafter ASC ),
another essential narrative source for the pre-Viking period, was likely compiled at the court of Alfred the Great himself and as such recounts the
However, some points relating to the development of fortifications will be noted as appropriate, particularly in discussion of the Burghal Hidage.
The ‘Alfredian’ evidence
What is meant by ‘strictly Alfredian’ is itself difficult to define in the light of questions of Alfredian authorship and the post-900 writing of the Anglo-SaxonChronicle (hereafter ASC ),
even if the question of the ‘authenticity of Asser’ is