Synopses & Reviews
This book explores the experiences of rural communities who lived between the seventh and ninth centuries in central and eastern England. Combining archaeology with documentary, place-name and topographic evidences, it shows the way in which the settlements in which people lived provide a unique insight into social, economic and political conditions in 'Middle Saxon' England. The material derived from excavations within currently-occupied rural settlements represents a particularly informative dataset, and when combined with other evidence illustrates that the seventh to ninth centuries was a period of fundamental social change that impacted rural communities in significant and lasting ways. The transformation of settlement character was part of a more widespread process of landscape investment during the 'Middle Saxon' period, as rapidly stratifying social institutions began to manifest power and influence through new means. Such an analysis represents a significant departure from the prevailing scholarly outlook of the early medieval landscape, which continues to posit that the countryside of England remained largely unchanged until the development of historic villages from the ninth century onward. In this regard, the evidence presented by this book from currently-occupied rural settlements provides substantial backing to the idea that many historic villages emerged as part of a two-stage process which began during the 'Middle Saxon' period. Whilst it was only following subsequent change that recognizable later village plans began to take shape, key developments between the seventh and ninth centuries helped articulate the form and identity of rural centers, features that in many instances persisted throughout the medieval period and into the present day.