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Britain and Ireland 900±1300 Insular Responses to Medieval European Change Edited by Brendan Smith published by the press syndicate of the university of cambridge The Pitt Building, Trumpington Street,

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Britain and Ireland 900±1300 Insular Responses to Medieval European Change Edited by Brendan Smith published by the press syndicate of the university of cambridge The Pitt Building, Trumpington Street, Cambridge CB2 1RP, United Kingdom cambridge university press The Edinburgh Building, Cambridge, CB2 2RU, UK 40 West 20th Street, New York, NY 10011±4211, USA 10 Stamford Road, Oakleigh, Melbourne 3166, Australia # Cambridge University Press 1999 This book is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press First published 1999 Printed in the United Kingdom at the University Press, Cambridge Typeset in Plantin 10/12 pt [ce] A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress cataloguing in publication data Britain and Ireland, 900±1300: insular responses to medieval European change / edited by Brendan Smith. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN X 1. Great Britain ± Civilization ± 1066± Great Britain ± Civilization ± European in uences. 3. Ireland ± Civilization ± European in uences. 4. Great Britain ± Civilization ± To Culture diffusion ± History ± To Social change ± History ± To Civilization, Medieval. I. Smith, Brendan, 1963± DA185.B ± dc21 98±42845 CIP ISBN X hardback Contents Contributors Preface List of abbreviations page vii ix xii 1 The effect of Scandinavian raiders on the English and Irish churches: a preliminary reassessment 1 ALFRED P. SMYTH 2 The changing economy of the Irish Sea province 39 BENJAMIN T. HUDSON 3 Cults of Irish, Scottish and Welsh saints in twelfth-century England 67 ROBERT BARTLETT 4 Sea-divided Gaels? Constructing relationships between Irish and Scots c. 800± MA IRE HERBERT 5 The 1169 invasion as a turning-point in Irish±Welsh relations 98 SEA N DUFFY 6 Killing and mutilating political enemies in the British Isles from the late twelfth to the early fourteenth century: a comparative study 114 JOHN GILLINGHAM 7 Anglo-French acculturation and the Irish element in Scottish identity 135 DAUVIT BROUN 8 John de Courcy, the rst Ulster plantation and Irish church men 154 MARIE THERESE FLANAGAN v vi Contents 9 Coming in from the margins: the descendants of Somerled and cultural accommodation in the Hebrides, 1164± R. ANDREW McDONALD 10 Nobility and identity in medieval Britain and Ireland: The de Vescy family, c. 1120± KEITH J. STRINGER Bibliography 240 Index 264 1 The effect of Scandinavian raiders on the English and Irish churches: a preliminary reassessment Alfred P. Smyth Assessments of the effects of Scandinavian raiders in the ninth and tenth centuries have focused for over three decades on an agenda set by revisionist historians ± an agenda which has obscured and sometimes trivialized many of the complex issues involved in an analysis of annalistic and other records. An over-zealous approach, driven by a desire to show that Scandinavian raiders were not numerous and that they were no more destructive to church property and personnel than were the native Christian opposition, has too often led to conclusions which y in the face of historical evidence and common sense. Revisionists must also take responsibility for polarizing historical arguments in relation to the destructive power of the Northmen. In their zeal to promote an image of Scandinavian raiders as yet one more political, cultural and religious grouping in Western Europe ± little different from their Christian neighbours in most respects ± they either minimized evidence which did not t their preconceptions or else they distracted historians' attention away from those negative effects which Vikings wrought on Western society, to concentrate on the economic and material bene ts which later Scandinavian colonists supposedly brought to a conquered people. At best, the books in `Viking' studies fail to balance: at worst they are intellectually cooked. The self-congratulatory mood of post-revisionists in medieval Irish studies gives cause for concern, not least because of serious shortcomings in the intellectual debate. 1 There is little disagreement over the fact that in all parts of the Christian West, indigenous violent elements existed long before Northmen arrived in the ninth century, and I have long ago shown how several aspects of Norse kingship and warrior cults 1 See P. Holm, `Between apathy and antipathy: the Vikings in Irish and Scandinavian history', Peritia, 8 (1994), p. 168, for an uncritical and embarrassing appraisal of an Irish historian who in that writer's opinion had `introduced the essential historical methodology of source criticism (sic) in this and later valuable revisionist work'. 1 2 Alfred P. Smyth appealed to elements within the native Christian aristocracies. 2 This rapport between warriors led, in turn, to military alliances and intermarriage from the earliest stages of the Norse invasions. It is also possible to contrast the hostility which the churches in Wessex and Ireland showed against the Northmen, with the very de nite evidence for cooperation between the churches of York and Chester-le-Street (Lindisfarne) with Danish rulers in Northumbria. Different political circumstances dictated different approaches, but whenever a native Christian aristocracy survived to resist Scandinavian attack, the church invariably backed its own kings ± even to the point of Frankish, West Saxon and Irish churchmen personally going into battle against the pagans. In Northumbria, on the other hand, where native Anglian Christian kings had been annihilated by the Northmen, the archbishops of York were left with no choice but to do business with the invaders, just as Christian bishops in Francia had been forced to come to terms with earlier Germanic barbarians in the fth century. 3 As for the intermonastic violence for which there is de nite evidence in Ireland prior to the Viking age, this is a subject which has not been properly evaluated by historians on any side of the debate. By the eighth century some Irish monasteries had not only become very rich, but they had also grown to ll a vacuum in Irish economic and social life ± a life which had hitherto been exclusively agrarian. The monks had inadvertently triggered the growth of monastic townships from the seventh century onwards, thereby giving monasticism a monopoly on urban development ± with all the economic and political advantages that implied. Monasteries had attracted communities of craftsmen, agrarian tenants and serfs, and of course, merchants. This must have created a con ict of interest vis-aá-vis the warrior aristocracy, which unlike their counterparts in England, for instance, had no coinage to control and no traditional rights over markets in these novel and burgeoning monastic townships. When, therefore, we read of battles between Irish monasteries and of Irish kings attacking monasteries, it would be naõève to conclude that professed monks or ordained clergy had begun to slay each other out of personal spite. However unedifying such violent engagements may have been, they were unquestionably the result of dynastic rivalry and economic tension at a secular level within the church and in society at large. The situation was unquestionably aggravated by the fact that senior church 2 A. P. Smyth, Scandinavian Kings in the British Isles 850±880 (Oxford, 1977), pp. 128±33, 149±53; Smyth, Scandinavian York and Dublin: the History and Archaeology of Two Related Viking Kingdoms, 2 vols. (repr., Dublin, 1987), i, pp. 49±53. 3 Smyth, Scandinavian York and Dublin, i, pp. 41±6; ii, pp. 91±4; J. M. Wallace-Hadrill, Early Germanic Kingship in England and on the Continent (Oxford, 1971), pp. 18±20. Scandinavian raiders 3 of ces within monastic `cities' or civitates had become hereditary and were no doubt largely controlled by the lay aristocracy. 4 We are reminded of Carolingian and later Capetian control of certain key monasteries in Francia. But none of this evidence can be used to suggest that all monks had become corrupt politicians or that all monks had abandoned their celibacy. The rise of the CeÂli De movement of monastic reformers and ascetics had already established itself in the Irish midlands prior to the Scandinavian onslaught, which clearly shows that however decadent monastic culture had become, there was an in uential element within monasticism which still strove after the ideals of the Desert. Iona is a good example of a most powerful and wealthy monastery whose leaders, although drawn from the leading Uõ NeÂill dynasty, maintained their celibacy and high spiritual standards right up to the time of Norse inroads, and Iona was also a centre which like so many others on the Irish mainland, had developed dõâsert sites where anchorites and lay penitents could get on with the business of praying, at one remove from the high politics of the monastic civitas itself. To imply, therefore, that all monastic communities in pre-viking Ireland had become degenerate and violent places, or to misuse the already awed statistics of pre- Viking monastic `burnings' and raidings as presented in the raw gures of a much misquoted paper by Lucas in 1967, is to present a grotesque distortion of the historical evidence. 5 Discussions on the extent of Norse destructiveness on Western society have been obfuscated by the parading of economic bene ts which accrued from the growth of Norse towns and from the injection of money into the Western economy through payments of Danegeld. No one would deny the impressive contribution which the Scandinavians made to town life in the English Danelaw and in Ireland. 6 But those settlements were founded initially at the cost of native lives and livelihoods. Clergy who had been terrorized by Norse raiders, or those landowners who had been driven off their lands in the Vale of York, may have bene ted as much from trading in the markets of York as the Plains Indians bene ted from the opening up of the American West by European colonists in the nineteenth century. As for the notion that Danegeld prised money and other frozen assets out of monasteries and into general circulation, we need only remind ourselves that Northmen did not operate charities for the bene t of their victims. Danegeld went 4 Smyth, Scandinavian York and Dublin, ii, pp. 134±40. 5 A. T. Lucas, `The plundering and burning of churches in Ireland: 7th to 16th century', in North Munster Studies: Essays in Commemoration of Monsignor Michael Moloney, ed. E. Rynne (Limerick, 1967), pp. 172± Smyth, Scandinavian York and Dublin, pp. 191±258. 4 Alfred P. Smyth into the Scandinavian economy, as the multitude of pennies from the reign of áthelraed the Unready found in Scandinavian hoards demonstrates. 7 As for the undoubted Norse contribution to the growth of towns in tenth-century England and Ireland, that was part of a colonization process which was scarcely a boon to those who lost their lives or were dispossessed in the earlier era of piracy, slave-raiding, and violent confrontation. Arguments relating to Norse destructiveness have tended to hinge on technical matters such as the size of each Norse ship and the numbers of men in each ship. The technical approach has its uses in sanitizing Norse violence and taking attention away from the effects of the more barbarous levels of ninth-century Scandinavian society on the culture of the Christian West. It took the crews of only sixty-seven ships to bring about the notorious sack of Nantes on the Feast of John the Baptist (24 June) in The `numbers approach' does not take account of the devastating effect of even smaller bands of Northmen ± well armed and with surprise and mobility on their side ± attacking an unarmed population. We are reminded of the Chronicle's statement that in 896 only six enemy ships were involved in a raid on the Isle of Wight where they `did great harm there, both in Devon and everywhere along the coast'. 9 It only took one Northman ± with a different and more regressive set of cultural values ± to torch an undefended monastic library which had taken two and a half centuries to accumulate, or to slay a monastic scholar who carried that accumulated wisdom in his or her head. The debate regarding numbers cannot be side-stepped since it has an obvious bearing on levels of destructiveness, as has the more intangible issue of relative levels of violent behaviour vis-aá-vis different cultural groups in the early middle ages. If, for instance, we were to accept all Sawyer's arguments regarding the smallness of scale of the Scandinavian invading force described as the `Great Army' (micel here) in the Anglo- Saxon Chronicle between the years 865 and 878, 10 we would nd it dif cult to account for the phenomenal military successes enjoyed by the Danes during that thirteen-year period. It is one thing to acknowl- 7 P. H. Sawyer, The Age of the Vikings (2nd edn, London, 1971), pp. 117±19. Sawyer pointed to the fact that there were 1,000 Frankish coins in the Cuerdale hoard (dating to c. 900; ibid., p. 101). It also needs stressing that there were close on 1,000 coins of Alfred the Great in that same hoard ± many of which may have been collected as loot and Danegeld. See C. S. S. Lyon and B. H. I. H. Stewart, `The Northumbrian Viking coins in the Cuerdale hoard', in Anglo-Saxon Coins: Studies presented to F. M. Stenton, ed. R. H. M. Dolley (London, 1961), p The Annals of St-Bertin, ed. J. N. Nelson (Manchester, 1991), s.a. 843, p. 55, and n The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, trans. D. Whitelock, EHD, i,s.a. 896, p Sawyer, Age of the Vikings, p. 123; Sawyer, Kings and Vikings: Scandinavia and Europe AD 700±1100 (London and New York, 1982), pp. 93±4. Scandinavian raiders 5 edge Danish successes by stating that they conquered the English kingdoms of Northumbria, East Anglia and Mercia and that they brought Alfredian Wessex to the very brink of defeat. It is another thing to view that phenomenal success in the context of what had gone before. Because pre-conquest English history is conveniently compartmentalized between pre-viking, Viking and post-viking periods, we encounter strange anomalies in Anglo-Saxon studies when we choose to move freely back and forth across the historiographical air-locks which divide these `periods'off, one from another. Seventh- and eighth-century English history has been viewed as a relentless struggle between leading contestants in a `Heptarchy' which curiously consisted of only three major players ± Northumbria, Mercia and Wessex. That struggle was once viewed by Stenton and by others as promoting the evolution of a uni ed English polity. Yet during that era when England was ruled by its native kings, Northumbria, Mercia and Wessex were rarely, if ever, capable of imposing their rule over each other or over their neighbours to the extent of permanently replacing tributary kingships and indigenous aristocracies with puppets and colonists of their own choosing. Mercian rulers in the eighth century might require subject-kings of Kent, for instance, to seek rati cation for land-grants, or Mercia might likewise install the West Saxon Beorhtric as their client-king in Wessex (c. 800), but there never came a point in the Mercian supremacy when even after military victory Wessex could ever be viewed as being fully annexed ± not to say colonized ± by its more powerful Midland neighbour. So in spite of constant jockeying for military advantage, an old-style Brytenwealda or `Wide Ruler' had to confront the political realities of dealing with two or three other potentially rival overlords whose armies were intact and whose magnates were in control of patronage throughout their own shires and lesser territories. How then, we may well ask, did a `Great Army' of Danes succeed in accomplishing in eleven or thirteen years what the most able native English warlords had failed to accomplish in over three centuries? This simple but grim reminder of overwhelming Danish military superiority has rarely if ever been acknowledged by historians. It was the Danish kings, Ivar and Halfdan, and later on, Olaf Gothfrithsson ± rather than their English predecessors ± who rst came close to qualifying for that elusive title of Bretwalda or `Ruler of Britain'. The Danes not only annihilated three leading English royal dynasties, but in the case of the Mercians, their war-machine ± which had been the glory of Penda, áthelbald and Offa ± surrendered to the invaders without apparently offering a single battle. The Northumbrians and East Angles were each brought separately to their knees and their dynasties destroyed after only one battle ± an 6 Alfred P. Smyth extraordinary ordering of events when we recall how obdurate the relatively small Kentish kingdom had been in defending its independence against the might of Offa. Yet if we were to accept revisionist interpretations of ninth-century history, we would have to conclude that a force made up of hundreds rather than thousands of Scandinavian `travelling warriors' redrew the political map of the whole island of Britain (including all of what is now Scotland and its Isles) 11 in that short period from 866 to 880. We cannot argue that English armies were a spent force by the time the Great Heathen Army landed in 865. Kirby reminds us that although Mercia had experienced dynastic discord in the early ninth century, it was still a force to be reckoned with in the 820s. 12 Although Mercian power had been eclipsed by Ecgberht of Wessex temporarily in 825, even Stenton conceded that when Wiglaf returned to the Mercian kingship in 830, Mercia again got the upper hand, controlling most of Berkshire and perhaps also Essex and London. 13 We have de nite evidence for Mercian control of parts of Berkshire in the reign of Wiglaf's Mercian successor, Brihtwulf, in 843±4. 14 And by the middle of the century, although the balance of power between Mercia and Wessex had by then tilted marginally in favour of Wessex, nevertheless, áthelwulf, the West Saxon king, went on a joint expedition with Burgred of Mercia against the Welsh in 853, and áthelwulf married off his daughter, áthelswith, to that same Burgred later in the same year. Wessex was compelled to deal with its Mercian neighbour through diplomacy rather than brute force. And even if we were to argue, in the face of good evidence to the contrary, that Wessex alone possessed the only credible warband to resist Viking attack in the mid-ninth century, we would still have to explain the remarkable Danish successes in that kingdom ± successes which but for a great element of luck would eventually have toppled the West Saxon leadership as they had toppled that in other Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. Ecgberht of Wessex is seen by Anglo-Saxon historians as laying the foundations for later Alfredian expansion through his subjugation of the Cornishmen and his casting off the Mercian yoke in 825 and 829. Yet that same successful king who had supposedly `conquered the kingdom of the Mercians' according to the partisan Anglo-Saxon 11 A. P. Smyth, Warlords and Holy Men: Scotland A.D. 80±1000 (London, 1984), pp. 141± D. P. Kirby, The Earliest English Kings (London, 1991), pp. 188±9. 13 F. M. Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England (2nd edn, repr., Oxford, 1967), p. 233; Kirby, Earliest English Kings, pp. 191±2. 14 Kirby, The Earliest English Kings, p. 192; A. P. Smyth, King Alfred the Great (Oxford, 1995), p. 4. Scandinavian raiders 7 Chronicle, 15 was defeated by as few as twenty- ve or thirty- ve ships' crews of Viking raiders at Carhampton in 836. The Chronicle ± never keen to elaborate on a West Saxon defeat ± laconically records that battle as though it were some isolated skirmish. But Carhampton was almost certainly a royal estate (it was so in Alfred's time) and there is evidence to
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