Archbishop Wulfstan of York is among the most important legal and political thinkers of the early Middle Ages. A leading ecclesiastic, innovative legislator, and influential royal councilor, Wulfstan witnessed firsthand the violence and social unrest that culminated in the fall of the English monarchy before the invading armies of Cnut in 1016. This book introduces the range of Wulfstan's political writings and sheds light on the development of English law during the early eleventh century. In his homilies and legal tracts, Wulfstan offered a searing indictment of the moral failures that led to England’s collapse and formulated a vision of an ideal Christian community that would influence English political thought long after the Anglo-Saxon period had ended. More than just dry political theory, however, Wulfstan’s works are composed in the distinctive voice of someone who was both a confidante of kings and a preacher of apocalyptic fervour. No other source so vividly portrays the political life of eleventh-century England: what it was, and what one man believed it could be.
the fullest measure, challenging the þeod not to let their own reversal come full circle.
1 Simon Keynes, ‘An Abbot, an Archbishop, and the Viking Raids of 1006–7 and 1009–12’, ASE , 36 (2007), 151– 220 (pp. 181–3). Several homiletic adaptations refer to the edict: Napier 35 ‘On Various Misfortunes’. Andrew Rabin has recently edited Napier 35 in The Political Writings of ArchbishopWulfstanofYork (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2015), pp. 131–2.
2 Liebermann, Gesetze , 2.
3 Rabin, Political Writings , p. 185.
making oneself a suitable heir to otherworldly geographies.
This book closes with eleventh-century renderings of the narrative in the homilies of Ælfric and ArchbishopWulfstanofYork. Ælfric explores the complex relationship between sovereigns and disobedient subjects, imagining the angelic fall as a crisis of individual agency and an unfortunate consequence of the gift of agen cyre (‘free choice’). Wulfstan adopts Ælfric’s approach in the wake of the viking invasions. With Wulfstan, I work to overturn some predominant readings of his
by David Wilkins in
his 1721 Leges Anglo-Saxonicae Ecclesiasticae et Civiles
under the title Liber Constitutionem ; however, they were not
understood as part of a single text until edited as such by Benjamin
Thorpe in his 1840 Ancient Laws and Institutes of England. It
was not until 1918 that Karl Jost conclusively demonstrated them to
be the work of ArchbishopWulfstan
survive from the early
Middle Ages. 5 Among
significant texts in this corpus are the laws, homilies, and political
tracts produced by the early eleventh-century ecclesiastic ArchbishopWulfstanofYork. Wulfstan was the leading English churchman of his day,
serving as bishop of London from 996 to 1002, bishop of Worcester and
archbishop of York from 1002 to 1016, and
awaited flood of fire might come – Christ himself uses the
comparison with Noah to show how unexpected the Judgment will be –
others were less cautious. ArchbishopWulfstanofYork – with whom
Ælfric closely collaborated – makes the link between the
Flood of Noah’s day and the coming conflagration quite clear in
his eschatological homily Secundum Lucam : And witodlice ealswa