Mon, 25 May 2015
Britain After Rome

Britain After Rome
By Robin Fleming

I mustn't let this book slip by without a short mention. Britain After Rome covers the period from the early 400's to the mid-11th Century in pre-Conquest Britain. From a peripheral part of the Roman Empire, we move into a very different world of British, Romano-British, Germanic and Scandinavian "interaction". Fleming has written a detailed and semi-academic book with some real history backed up by actual archaeology.

A little tough going at the start but as she says in the introduction, she wants to try and concentrate on the archaelogical record to uncloak as much of the ordinary life of the people of the period as possible. This means less concentration on the great lives, or written sources (such as they are) and more on burial custom, building and economy. Fleming only briefly covers Wales but this an interesting section on how the Viking micel here (Great Heathen Army, arriving around 865 AD) affected the Welsh kingdom of Brycheiniog.

Scotland and Ireland also figure less prominently although another interesting section covers the possible reason for finding the remains of a 9th or 10th century Yorkshire woman in a Viking/Norse cemetery in Cnip, Isle of Lewis :

How did an English-woman end up living at the center of a vast, Norse-colonial, North Atlantic world with a group of grave-goods-using Norse settlers? The most likely explanation is that viking slavers derailed her life in some unrecorded raid and, as a conequence of it, she spent her final years among foreigners who owned her.

One is often reminded about the ubiquity of slavery through-out history.

On the left: An Anglo-Saxon burial urn. The body was cremated and then placed in the urn and buried. There was a great variety of burial custom in use, including cremation and inhumation (burial of body in ground, either directly, or in a coffin of some form). Grave goods got less common as christianity took hold.

This is a book worth a read by anyone seriously interested in what might have happened in Britain during the six centuries that passed before the country's reintegration to the continent as part of the Duke of Normandy's domain.