Farming Transformed in Anglo-Saxon England: Agriculture in the Long Eighth Century [Paperback]

Mark McKerracher (Author)

ISBN: 9781911188315 | Published by: Windgather Press | Year of Publication: 2018 | Language: English 164p, H246 x W185 (mm) b/w

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Farming Transformed in Anglo-Saxon England


Anglo-Saxon farming has traditionally been seen as the wellspring of English agriculture, setting the pattern for 1000 years to come – but it was more important than that. A rich harvest of archaeological data is now revealing the untold story of agricultural innovation, the beginnings of a revolution, in the age of Bede. Armed with a powerful new dataset, Farming Transformed explores fundamental questions about the minutiae of early medieval farming and its wider relevance. How old were sheep left to grow, for example, and what pathologies did cattle sustain? What does wheat chaff have to do with lordship and the market economy? What connects ovens in Roman Germany with barley maltings in early medieval Northamptonshire? And just how interested were Saxon nuns in cultivating the opium poppy? Farming Transformed is the first book to draw together the variegated evidence of pollen, sediments, charred seeds, animal bones, watermills, corn-drying ovens, granaries and stockyards on an extensive, regional scale. The result is an inter-disciplinary dataset of unprecedented scope and size, which reveals how cereal cultivation boomed, and new watermills, granaries and ovens were erected to cope with – and flaunt – the fat of the land. As arable farming grew at the expense of pasture, sheep and cattle came under closer management and lived longer lives, yielding more wool, dairy goods, and traction power for ploughing. These and other innovations are found to be concentrated at royal, aristocratic and monastic centres, placing lordship at the forefront of agricultural innovation, and farming as the force behind kingdom-formation and economic resurgence in the seventh and eighth centuries.

Table of Contents

1.  The lie of the land
England in the ‘long eighth century’
Rationale and scope of this study
Beating the bounds: natural environments in the study regions
2. Farm and field
3. Beast and bone
The importance of sheep
The importance of wool
4. The growth of arable
Settlement and structures
Arable environments
Introducing the charred plant remians
Charred crop deposits and arable growth
5. The changing harvest
Wheat, barley, oat and rye
The accidental harvest
Beyond the cereals
6. Farming transformed
Appendix: gazetteer of sites

Reviews & Quotes

"…overviews such as this, based on a PhD thesis, are to be warmly welcomed …well and engagingly written…"
Paul Stamper
Agricultural History Review (20/06/2019)

"...provides a thought provoking case for fundamental transformations in farming in Anglo-Saxon England during ‘long eighth century'."
Gareth Davies
Archaeological Journal

"In summary, this is an important study that sheds fuller light on farming in Anglo-Saxon souther England across the 'long 8th century'."
Stephen Rippon
Medieval Archaeology (05/02/2019)

"This well-written and extremely useful book is timely…this compact book makes a mass of research data (and the techniques that can be used to interrogate these) available to the many readers interested in the history of early medieval farming; and it does so in an agreeable style with some quite tolerable jokes along the way!"
Rosamond Faith
Medieval Settlement Research Group (29/01/2019)

"This book is extremely welcome… McKerracher has a neat turn of phrase, a great advantage of making what is, after all, fairly technical information accessible to a wider audience. And the book is as well produced as we have come to expect from Windgather... The book is a credit to all concerned."
Debby Banham
Journal of the English Place-Society (17/04/2019)

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