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Showing papers in "Transactions of the Royal Historical Society in 1986"


Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: Alfred the Great and AEEthelred the Unready as discussed by the authors were two Anglo-Saxon kings whose characters are fixed in the popular imagination by their familiar epithets.
Abstract: IN the gallery of Anglo-Saxon kings, there are two whose characters are fixed in the popular imagination by their familiar epithets: Alfred the Great and AEEthelred the Unready. Of course both epithets are products of the posthumous development of the kings' reputations (in opposite directions), not expressions of genuinely contemporary attitudes to the kings themselves: respective personalities. In the case of Alfred, it was the king’s own resourcefulness, courage and determination that brought the West Saxons through the Viking invasions, for it was these qualities, complemented by his concern for the well–being of his subjects, that inspired and maintained the people’s loyalty towards the king and generated their support for his cause. Whereas in the case of jEthelred, it was the king’s incompetence, weakness and vacillation that brought the kingdom to ruin, for it was these failings, exacerbated by his displays of cruelty and spite, that alienated the people and made them abandon his cause. Few historians, perhaps, would subscribe to such a view expressed as bluntly as that, and more, I suspect, would consider such comparisons to be futile and probably misconceived in the first place. I would maintain, however, that something is to be gained from the exercise of comparing the two kings in fairly broad terms: by juxtaposing discussions of the status of the main narrative accounts of each king’s reign we can more easily appreciate how their utterly different reputations arose, and see, moreover, that in certain respects the apparent contrast between them might actually be deceptive; by comparing the predicament in which each king was placed we can better understand how one managed to extricate himself from trouble while the other succumbed; and overall we can more readily judge how much, or how little, can be attributed to personal qualities or failings on the part of the kings themselves.

55 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: A considerable body of opinion holds that marriage in early modern England, and especially marriage among the lower orders, was uncaring, affectionless, and entered into for economic rather than emotional reasons as discussed by the authors.
Abstract: THERE is a considerable body of opinion which holds that marriage in early modern England, and especially marriage among the lower orders, was uncaring, affectionless, and entered into for economic rather than emotional reasons. This view was, for example, axiomatic to those writing from a feminist perspective in the 1970s. Thus Sheila Rowbotham felt that in the pre-industrial world The peasant judged his woman by her capacity to labour and to breed more hands for toil…among the peasantry women were essential in the family economy. The peasant's wife bore children which meant more hands to toil and she laboured herself. She was like cattle, a means of production.

45 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: The search for historical laws of civilisation and decay was a characteristically Victorian intellectual preoccupation and an essential part of the way in which Europeans tried to make sense of the other civilisations into which they crashed during the nineteenth century.
Abstract: TO an outsider historians must sometimes seem perversely obsessed with decline. Certainly when it comes to dealing with empires, his-torians betray a fascination with decay that is almost pathological—and often not simply with the nature and causes of decline but with the exact moment when it began—a somewhat futile enterprise if an enjoyable parlour game. Of course the appeal of decay to the his-torical imagination is not simply the outgrowth of contemporary nostalgia for lost worlds and past times. In the later nineteenth and earlier twentieth centuries the intellectual habit of ‘historical-mindedness’ and the particular tendency to search for a pattern of origins, growth, maturity, decline and fall were extremely influential over a wide range of intellectual disciplines and we might suppose helped to shape the world-view of those who managed the external affairs of Britain and the other powers. The search for historical laws of civilisation and decay was a characteristically Victorian intellectual preoccupation and an essential part of the way in which Europeans tried to make sense of the other civilisations into which they crashed during the nineteenth century. But how far were the leaders of the European imperial states and the circles of informed opinion in which they moved willing to turn on their own empires the analysis of growth and decay they had fashioned for the states and cultures they had overthrown? To what extent should we see the makers of British policy in the first half of this century as (in Gibbon's famous phrase) ‘musing in the ruins of the Capitol’? Was the Marquess of Lothian's remark that ‘sooner or later empires decay partly because they become rigid and rotten at the centre…’ a recognition that if history was the graveyard of empires, British imperialism had certainly reached retiring age? Or did Lothian and others like him assume that Britain's peculiarities made her exempt from such generalizations?

26 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: For example, the authors found that women would be found in a sizeable minority of instances as residual heirs in a country where males were generally preferred heirs, demographic realities ensured that women found themselves in a large minority of cases as residual inheritors.
Abstract: MEDIEVAL England fell into that broader Eurasian region within which property from conjugal estates devolved on both men and women, either by inheritance or by certain mechanisms of pre mortem endowment. Although males were generally preferred heirs, demographic realities ensured that women would be found in a sizeable minority of instances as residual heirs. Given likely conditions of mortality and fertility, a wife would often have needed to bear at least four children to secure a sixty per cent chance of furnishing a son who would survive his father to inherit the estate. Indeed in stationary demographic conditions roughly twenty per cent of families would have only surviving daughters and no sons at the father's death. This female inheritance potential combined with the possibility of the transmission of pre mortem dowry to daughters in those families who were blessed with at least one male heir implies that considerable reorganization of land might occur at every generation.

23 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: Alfred, a king across the sea as discussed by the authors was used by Flodoard of Rheims in c. 960 when he summarized a letter sent to King Alfred by Archbishop Fulk of Rocha.
Abstract: I BEGIN with the quotation in my title: ‘Alfred, a king across the sea’. It is actually a tenth-century label rather than a strictly contemporary one: it was used by Flodoard of Rheims in c. 960 when he summarized a letter sent to Alfred by Archbishop Fulk of Rheims in c. 890. How Fulk himself had addressed Alfred we don't know. But, according to Flodoard, what he said was ‘amicable’: he ex-pressed satisfaction on hearing of the appointment of a good man, Plegmund, to the see of Canterbury, because he had heard that ‘a most perverse sect’ had spread among the English and Plegmund was the man to cut it down. This sect held that bishops and priests could have women secretly living with them and that anyone who wished could mate with kinswomen of his own family and have incestuous relations with women consecrated to God and have a wife and a concubine at the same time. Fulk ended by demonstrating to Alfred the error of such views.

16 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: In this article, the authors describe the submission of many of the most important members of the English nobility to duke William at Berkhamstead, which followed extensive ravaging by the invading army, implying that the spoliation of the countryside would have ended with a submission and acceptance of the new ruler inflicted as a punishment by God.
Abstract: WHEN the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (D) s.a. 1066 described the submission ‘out of necessity’ of many of the most important members of the English nobility to duke William at Berkhamstead, which followed extensive ravaging by the invading army, the chronicler lamented the fact that it was only at this stage that the English did so ‘… after most of the damage had been done—and it was a great piece of folly that they had not done it earlier, since God would not make things better, because of our sins…’, implying that the spoliation of the countryside would have ended with a submission and acceptance of the new ruler inflicted as a punishment by God. He continued, ‘And they gave hostages and swore oaths to him, and he promised them that he would be a gracious liege lord to them, and yet in the meantime they ravaged all that they overran.’ The chronicler is clearly shocked by this behaviour on the part of William and his forces, which only seems to end, in his account, with the coronation. Well he might be, for when dates of coronation for English kings in the previous two centuries can be firmly established, they usually occur some considerable time after a constitutive royal accession. Thus, for instance, Edward the Elder, AEthelstan, AEthelred, and Edward the Confessor6 were all crowned in the following years.

9 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: The response to Walker's pamphlet as discussed by the authors was a sensitive and sympathetic riposte from Alexander Knox, Lord Castlereagh's private secretary, who was an admirer of Wesley's transparent piety and of the beneficial influence of Methodism on the labouring classes.
Abstract: JOHN WALKER, sometime fellow of Trinity College Dublin and arch-critic of everyone's religious opinions but his own, wrote his Expostulatory Address to the Methodists in Ireland during one of the most remarkable outbreaks of rural revivalism in Irish history. Walker, who inevitably founded the Walkerites, not only condemned Methodist acquisitiveness, but also drew up a list of its Arminian sins after the style of the eighteenth-century Calvinistic polemicists. He alleged that Methodists were idolatrous in their veneration of Wesley, hypocritical in their class-meeting confessions, irrational in their pursuit of religious experience, arrogant in their supposed claims of Christian perfection and heretical in their interpretation of the doctrines of justification and sanctification. The chief importance of Walker's pamphlet was the reply it provoked from Alexander Knox, Lord Castlereagh's private secretary. As an admirer of Wesley's transparent piety and of the beneficial influence of Methodism on the labouring classes, Knox wrote a sensitive and sympathetic riposte.

5 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: This paper used as an epigraph a famous remark by Joseph Chamberlain, fit to be included in that rich anthology of unlucky forecasts, of which classic examples are Pitt's fifteen years of peace in February 1792, and Neville Chamberlain's ‘I think it is peace for our time’, in 1938.
Abstract: I USE as my epigraph a famous remark by Joseph Chamberlain— fit to be included in that rich anthology of unlucky forecasts, of which classic examples are Pitt's fifteen years of peace in February 1792, and Neville Chamberlain's ‘I think it is peace for our time’, in 1938. To Charles Dilke, Joseph Chamberlain wrote, in 1871: ’The Republic must come, and at the rate at which we are moving, it will come in our generation.’1

3 citations