The Ancient Ways of Wessex: Travel and Communication in an Early Medieval Landscape [Paperback]

Alexander Langlands (Author)

ISBN: 9781911188513 | Published by: Windgather Press | Year of Publication: 2019 | Language: English 256p, H246 x W189 (mm) b/w and colour

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The Ancient Ways of Wessex


The Ancient Ways of Wessex tells the story of Wessex’s roads in the early medieval period, at the point at which they first emerge in the historical record. This is the age of the Anglo-Saxons and an era that witnessed the rise of a kingdom that was taken to the very brink of defeat by the Viking invasions of the ninth century. It is a period that goes on to become one within which we can trace the beginnings of the political entity we have come to know today as England. In a series of ten detailed case studies the reader is invited to consider historical and archaeological evidence, alongside topographic information and ancient place-names, in the reconstruction of the networks of routeways and communications that served the people and places of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex. Whether you were a peasant, pilgrim, drover, trader, warrior, bishop, king or queen, travel would have been fundamental to life in the early middle ages and this book explores the physical means by which the landscape was constituted to facilitate and improve the movement of people, goods and ideas from the seventh through to the eleventh centuries. What emerges is a dynamic web of interconnecting routeways serving multiple functions and one, perhaps, even busier than that in our own working countryside. A narrative of transition, one of both of continuity and change, provides a fresh and alternative window into the everyday workings of an early medieval landscape through the pathways trodden over a millennium ago.

Table of Contents

List of figures and tables
1. The landscape of routes and communications
2. Travellers and journeys
3. From emporia to markets: trade networks in Wessex
4. A note on the evidence: Anglo-Saxon charters and Ordnance Survey maps
5. Hampshire
6. Devon
7. Dorset
8. Wiltshire
9. Roman roads, wayside markers and gates
10. Bridges, herepaths, trade routes and the king’s peace
Conclusion: Wessex and the early medieval world beyond

Reviews & Quotes

"If there is much here that depends on the relatively high level of documentation that characterizes early Wessex and that relates to traditional, Wessex-specific agendas, there is much too by way of approach that is applicable in landscape studies anywhere and that challenges us to get more, interpretively, from them."
Paul Everson
Medieval Archaeology

"Drawing on a vast array of archaeological, historical, topographical and place-name evidence, this detailed volume reveals the importance of the networks of routeways in shaping the political and economic landscape of what would become England."
Robert Witcher
Antiquity (4/6/2021)

"Who’d have thought old routes could be so interesting? […] This is a detailed, thoughtful exploration of ideas about travel and communication, and the possibility of not just imagining them but of mapping evidence. […] Stimulating."
Mike Pitts
British Archaeology (2/10/2020)

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