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Early Medieval Urban Centres in Britain: A Comparative Typological Model from a Diachronic Perspective

Conference contribution
Authors Denis Sukhino-Khomenko
Published in Aarhus Student Symposium on Viking and Medieval Scandinavian Subjects, March 21st, 2019, Aarhus, Denmark
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Historical Studies
Language en
Keywords urbanism; Anglo-Saxon studies;
Subject categories History


Over recent decades, historians and archaeologists alike have greatly enhanced modern understanding of the urban development in early medieval Britain. However, as of now, there seems to be a lack of a meta-analytical synthesis of the collected information, i.e. scholars have so far not put forward any concise framework to collate this information with, the need for which is especially acute in the light of the multifaceted Anglo-Scandinavian interaction. For instance, the contribution of the Danish settlement to the English urban landscape has on multiple occasions been emphasised, but it remains hard to evaluate in the absence of a comparison with both native Scandinavian urban development and parallel late Anglo-Saxon urbanisation. The suggested paper aims at presenting one of the possible typologies of the post-Roman, Anglo-Saxon, and Scandinavian urban centres and communities up until the beginning of the High Middle Ages. The expected framework, built on the firm chronological principle, shall categorise them on the basis of: 1. origins: (post-)Roman settlements, early Anglo-Saxon wīcas/emporia, later Scandinavian fortresses, West Saxon burhs, etc.; 2. functions: royal centres, territorial capitals, commercial hubs, etc.; 3. regionality: Southern England, Western Mercia, and the Danelaw. Of special interest is the integration of the pre-existing urban settlements in the Danelaw into the West Saxon administrative system, particularly when compared to the parallel process in English Mercia to the west. It is anticipated that the resultant analytical scheme can find application beyond the Brit-ish Isles and can contribute to the multidisciplinary Scandinavian research just as much.

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