Rethinking the Anglo-Saxon Migrations

Rethinking the Anglo-Saxon Migrations
with Professor Guy Halsall (University of York)
at Sutton Hoo, Saturday, 27th September, 2014.

We will explore the Anglo-Saxon migration to Britannia, the break-down of Roman political order and the creation of new social and political units in the former province, looking at traditional ideas and new hypotheses which may help us see things in different ways.

Provisional Programme
09.50 – 10.15: Coffee on arrival
10.15 – 11.15: The Traditional Story. We begin with a look at the traditional ideas of how Roman Britain became Anglo-Saxon England, looking at the scant written sources and at the earlier readings of the archaeological evidence used to support the written accounts. We then explore why this picture might be problematic. This will set the scene for the later sessions.
11.15 – 11.45: Coffee break
11.45 – 12.45: The Break-up of the Western Roman Empire. We will explore how the western Roman Empire ‘fell’, the essential background to understanding the transformations of the fifth and sixth centuries in Britain. Was it through invasions by barbarians, of which the Saxon conquest of Britain was just one, or was the process more complex? If the latter, how might that change the way we see Britain in this period?
12.45 – 14.00: Lunch break
14.00 – 15.00: The Continental Saxons and their Migrations. Following up session 2, we will look at the ‘Saxon’ homelands in northern Germania. What was their society like? What were its relationships with the Roman Empire? How might we understand their migration across the North Sea and assess its effects?
15.00 – 15.20: Tea break
15.20 – 16.20: Society and Politics in Britain After Rome. We will look in this section at what society might have been like in Britain in the fifth and sixth centuries, building upon the discussions in sections 2 & 3. What kind of kingdoms might have existed? What became of the Romans? Was Britain divided between warring Saxons and Britons?
c.16.20: Thanks and Close

Some Suggestions for Optional Background Reading
Primary Sources
Bede, The Ecclesiastical History of the English People (the Oxford World Classics version is better than the Penguin but either will do)
Gildas, On The Ruin and Conquest of Britain, ed. & Trans. M. Winterbottom (Chichester 1978)
Nennius, The History of the Britons and the Welsh Annals, ed. & trans. J. Morris (Chichester, 1980).
Secondary Sources
T. Charles-Edwards (ed.), After Rome. C.400-c.800 (Oxford, 2003) esp. the chapter by John Hines.
R. Fleming, Britain After Rome. The Fall and Rise 400-1070 (London 2011)
G. Halsall, Worlds of Arthur: Facts and Fictions of the Dark Ages (Oxford 2013, paperback 2014)
G. Halsall, Barbarian Migrations and the Roman Empire, 376-568 (Cambridge 2007, revised 2009)
P. Heather, The Fall of Rome: A New History (Oxford 2005)
C. Hills, The Origins of the English (London 2003)
J.N.L. Myres, The English Settlements (Oxford 1986) – very old-fashioned, even in 1986, but a good illustration of traditional views.

About Guy Halsall
Guy Halsall took his BA in History and Archaeology at the University of York and stayed at York for his D.Phil, on the archaeology and history of the region of Metz (north-east France) in the Merovingian period (c.450-750). After a fellowship at Newcastle, he taught at the university of London between 1991 and 2002 before returning to York in January 2003 and being promoted to a chair there in 2006. He has published widely on late Roman and early medieval western Europe, covering themes like social structures, age and gender, war and violence, ethnicity and barbarian migration, and humour. He is currently working on a major study of Western Europe around 600 and a book on history itself, entitled Why History Doesn’t Matter.