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Did the arrival of pagans from the Viking Diaspora have an influence on the religious practice of early medieval Anglo-Saxon Christians?
I am examining the possibility that the settled Viking diaspora in Anglo-Saxon society had an impact on the religious behaviour of the native population. The object of the project is to identify if a relatively small arrival of settlers can influence religious practise at a local level albeit without retaining any longer-term doctrinal impact.
The period under examination would be from 793 to the Norman Conquest of 1066 and would focus on modern day England, namely the "Danelaw" of the time.
There are two complicating factors in this study. The first is the upheaval caused by the arrival of the Norman Christians in the post 1066 period, more significant however is the impact of the post Henry VIII reformation and the subsequent destruction of aspects of religious life that will add to the challenge of answering the question.
I am examining religious behaviour of the Anglo-Saxon Christians, to ascertain if there was a trajectory of retained pagan behaviour or customs within society that were being eradicated or preached against, for example well or spring worship, that survived longer as a result of the pagan arrivals.
To do this, I place the Christianity of post 793CE in the context of the development of Christianity from the Roman withdrawal of c407CE, the invasion of Germanic tribes and the beginning of the Augustine mission of 597CE with the incremental conversion of the Anglo-Saxons and the top-down process led by kings and rulers. The arrival of the “Great Army” in c865 is perhaps the starting point for the influence and cross fertilisation (if there were any) of the Norse pagans and the Anglo-Saxon Christians.
Within this context I am studying the religious practises that were “imported” by the Norse settlers in terms of for example, their continued pagan practise as seen by law makers and their impact in the local community with hogback monuments or Norse motifs added to Christian iconography.
The impact of a minority on the religious behaviour of a larger community is pertinent in modern society where the arrival of asylum seekers and refugees can present both challenges and opportunities to the established religious congregation. Whilst incomers are expected to conform to the norms of wider society, their desires to maintain their own traditions can be seen as a rejection of the host society and the impact, if any, on that society may be ignored.
John is a part time researcher and full-time health service manager based in Nottingham. He completed is M.Litt. in Viking Studies in 2019.
He is supervised by Professor Alexandra Sanmark
The Norwegian Bjarkøyretten of Nidaros, Oslo and Bergen, translated from Old Norse into English.
The Bjarkøyretten were bye-laws that governed day to day life in a limited number of market towns, ports and cities throughout the Nordic countries during the early Middle Ages; not all towns benefited from their own bye-laws, as the privilege was granted by the king, making it possible for those places to function as separate jurisdictions, known as ‘birke’. These birke are similar to towns with ‘royal charter’ or ‘royal burgh’ status in the middle ages (e.g. Aberdeen, Bristol, Chester, Coventry, Dublin, Edinburgh, Perth and York).
Because of their obscurity, the Bjarkøyretten are often unfamiliar even to those interested in legal history and seem to have been rarely studied outside Scandinavia. Moreover, as almost all of the literature mentioning bjarkøyretten is written in one of the Nordic languages, it has not been generally accessible to students. I believe that once finished, this project will provide the first comprehensive English translation of these Norwegian laws. In addition to translating the material I will also discuss the social, religious, and legal contexts in which the Bjarkøyretten were written. Moreover, I will analyse any developments or alterations in these laws, penalties etc. over time.
Alexandra is a part time researcher and retired judge based in Lancashire. She completed her M.Litt. in Viking Studies in 2021.
She is supervised by Professor Stefan Brink.