From Roman Civitas to Anglo-Saxon Shire: Topographical Studies on the Formation of Wessex [Paperback]

Bruce Eagles (Author)

ISBN: 9781785709845 | Published by: Oxbow Books | Year of Publication: 2018 | Language: English 264p, H280 x W220 (mm) b/w and colour

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From Roman Civitas to Anglo-Saxon Shire


This book is the culmination of the author’s lifelong interest in the Roman to medieval transition in England and in the analysis of the historic landscape of Wessex. It begins with a focused, referenced, and critical exploration of the thorny, but crucial, issues of post-Roman personal and group identity, employing linguistic, historical, archaeological and toponymical evidence. A series of integrated studies seek to elucidate changes in the territorial organisation of the Wessex landscape, from Somerset to Hampshire, from the Roman period to the emergence of the historic counties. It is shown that the defined limits of the self-governed Roman civitates had a significant impact upon subsequent historical developments, not least on the early English settlements. In eastern Wessex - Berkshire, Hampshire and Wiltshire – the Roman boundaries broke down piecemeal, but continued to influence political developments and patterns of settlement into the seventh century. It is argued that those three counties acquired their medieval and later form only at the time of the Viking wars. In western Wessex, Dorset and Somerset, by contrast, the core of the territories of both the southern and northern Durotriges in the Roman period has persisted until the present day. The book also includes a re-examination of the formation and extent of the kingdom of the Jutes in southern Hampshire and on the Isle of Wight. The chronology, history and archaeology of the fifth century, set alongside the many changes of the later fourth century, and vital to our understanding of the momentous events of that time as Saxon control took hold in the east , are here the subject of a separate, detailed study. Place-names across Wessex with a bearing on the presence of the Britons, and the changing nature and distribution of archaeological sites in the fifth, sixth and seventh centuries, are discussed in their historical context.

Table of Contents

List of Figures
List of Plates
List of Tables
1. The boundaries of the Roman civitates of central southern Britain: some possibilities
2. Wessex in the later fourth and fifth centuries, with an appended, numbered, gazetteer of sites datable to the fifth century
3. The archaeological evidence for settlement in ‘Berkshire’ and ‘Hampshire’ in the sixth and seventh centuries
4. A mid-fifth- to mid-sixth-century bridle-fitting of Mediterranean origin from Breamore, Hampshire, with a discussion of its local context
with Barry Ager
(updated from Eagles and Ager 2004)
5. A reconsideration of East Wansdyke; its construction and date – a preliminary note
with Michael J. Allen
(Eagles and Allen 2011)
6. Anglo-Saxon presence and culture in Wiltshire c. AD 410–c. AD 700
(updated and edited from Eagles 2001)
7. Britons and Saxons (AD 410–c. AD 800) in the Avebury area
(Eagles 2016)
8. The Jutes in Hampshire and on the Isle of Wight
9. The Saxon settlement and takeover of Dorset and the conquest of Somerset
10. Augustine’s Oak
(updated and edited from Medieval Archaeology 47 (2003), 176–8)
11. The area around Bedwyn in the Anglo-Saxon period
(revised version of Eagles 1997)
12. ‘Small shires’ and regiones in Hampshire and the formation of the shires of eastern Wessex
with a contribution from Rosamond Faith
(reproduced from Eagles 2015)
13. Conclusion

Reviews & Quotes

"Eagle’s data is the outcome of over 50 years of research, significantly revised and updated in light of more recent work. […] It refreshingly looks beyond the narrow disciplinary confines of ‘early medieval’ or ‘Roman’ studies to develop a more sophisticated understanding of landscape continuity and change over the longue durée."
Robert Witcher

"…a book that deserves to be read by all striving to untangle the complex palimpsest of our landscape."
Tim Pestell
British Archaeology (07/12/2018)

"...this deeply considered conrtibution to Wessex studies should be applauded for its rigour and recognition of the complexity of social change in the post-Roman period. Augmented by a series of well-produced maps by Harry Manley, and excellent plate photographs, this book is a necessary addition to the library of any serious scholar of Wessex in the first millennium."
David Roberts
Archaeological Journal (19/06/2019)

"The book has been most attractively produced, and it is a fitting tribute for someone who has laboured long and hard to make a somewhat intractable period more accessible and understandable."
Barbara Yorke
Medieval Archaeology (15/07/2019)

"Using archaeological, historical, linguistic, and toponymic sources, Eagles deftly tackles detailed case-studies and larger historical questions, but never drifts far from an essential focus on people, whether in their uses of material culture, inhabitation of landscape, or expressions of power. ‘Anglo-Saxon’ ethnicity, as expressed in the objects of this period, is revealed to be a choice: as much a response to unpredictable times as an innate identity. This is a deeply human story that is both recognisable and convincing."
Stuart Brookes
Current Archaeology (19/11/2018)

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