The Earliest States of Eastern Europe
DG-2014, 158-178

Revisiting the English state, AD c. 700–1100

G. Astill

This paper reviews some differing views about the character and development of the English state between AD 700 and 1100 and concentrates on those aspects where archaeology has made most impact: the preconditions for state development; the military impetus and crucially the control and nature of the economy.

Preconditions for state development include social differentiation and political centralisation which is based on the intensification of landuse and the ideological underpinnings of Christianity. The spatial expression of this process is often multi-focal rather than based on a single central place: this latter pattern was not achieved until after the Norman Conquest.

Territorial expansion and stabilisation of borders were predicated on effective military organisation and warfare. The series of measures taken to counter the Scandinavian conquests stimulated both an effective defensive system and a collective English identity, itself an important component of a state.

The relationship between state and economic development is a major area of debate and has centred on the level at which the state engaged with the economy, for example, either through the exercise of various forms of taxation or intervention in the practice of local agrarian economies. Similar concerns are expressed over the development of towns, such as the character and control of the emporia; and the speed at which the later towns grew and the extent and effectiveness of state control over trade, towns and the coinage. Further work is needed to understand the scale and social specificity of the production process which underpinned the better-studied trade.

Lastly, how does this archaeological research relate to the current historical views about the state; for example, the reconsideration of the extent and efficacy of the Anglo-Saxon state and its relationship to the exercise of lordship in the localities.

state, government, lordship, military action, economy, towns, coinage


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