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What was Pastoral Care like in Late Medieval Europe?

Pastoral care of local parishioners was not Martin Luther's Protestant invention. On the contrary, already in Late Medieval Society, conscientious attention to the spiritual nourishment of the Christian community was central. A new book by Deena Copeland Klepper draws our attention to the handbook by Albert von Diessen and its role

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Cnut the Great and Edmund ironside at the Battle of Assandun. Source: Matthew Paris, Chronica Majora, Cambridge, Corpus Christi College MS. 26, fol. 80v/Wikipedia (Open Domain)

The Lifeworlds of Cnut the Great and William the Conqueror

In 2016, when the English decided to leave the EU, several international conferences were organised to shed light on the conquests of Medieval England by Cnut the Great and William the Conqueror. New books present some of these papers and new perspectives.

In 2016, several conferences were organised in the heady days of the election leading up to Brexit. Now, the papers have been published from several of these conferences, presenting us with a cultural history of the events, which took place a thousand years ago. In particular, three recently published books offer different perspectives on the events which took place a thousand years ago. Do read the three books in following order.

The Cambridge Companion to the Ages of William the Conqueror
Ed. By Benjamin Pohl
Cambridge University Press 2022

In the 19th century, biographies of great men flooded the market for books on history. Great men mattered until the Annales School presented a new and refreshing paradigm pushing the cultural and social history of the life and times of ordinary people.

However, in the 21st century, when social media has fostered a new preoccupation with our neighbours as well as persons like Trump, Putin, and Xi Jinping, we see many more biographies published. One of these might have been the new companion to William the Conqueror. By contrast, this companion introduces us more to the world of William and less to the man himself.

Accordingly, this book offers a fine introduction to not just the three realms – Normandy, England, and Scandinavia – but also the landscapes and settlements, the social strata and their institutions, as well as the lifeworld and mentality. As such, the companion proactively states in the introduction that it is not intended to be a companion to William the Conqueror but the companion to his “the age”. Thus, the present book does not offer an introduction to the conqueror’s life and career, nor are we treated to the minutiae of his invasion or the Battle of Hastings. Instead, we get a proper stage-setting or sounding board, which can be used as an introduction to the two books mentioned above.

Emphatically, this is also the intention of the editor, who writes that “his” companion is intended to “buck the trend” of students collecting exam results and grade points. Instead, this book aims to offer “contextual information and guidance” to students who wish to embark on the exciting journey of discovering a corner of the history of the Middle Ages.

Anglo-Danish Empire: A Companion to the Reign of Cnut the Great
Ed. By Richard North, Erin Goeres, and Alison Finlay
De Gruyter 2022

Anglo-Danish Empire: A Companion to the Reign of Cnut the Great has come out of a conference titled “Æthelred II and Cnut the Great: The Siege of London in 2016”. Jointly organised at the University College of London and the University of Winchester, the conference was part of a research project intended to explore the change of regime in 1016 in not just England but Europe as a whole.

The book does speak to the themes of immigration, government and Europe, but it also presents us with a cultural history of the life and times of Cnut the Great, which is both intriguing and vastly entertaining. Thus, we encounter Cnut as a latter-day Aeneas, a Viking tomb-raider in high spirits, a youngster bent on enjoying the good life, and a king attracting the best and the most skilled artists and poets to his court. And we follow him archaeologically to his coronations in both Winchester and Viborg and join him on his tour of Europe, ending up as a pilgrim in Rome. A man of all times, in short. Highly entertaining and hence recommended.

Conquests in Eleventh-century England 1016,1066
Ed by Laura Ashe and Emily Joan Ward
The Boydell Press 2020

“Conquest: 1016,1066” was the title of a conference held in Oxford in July 2016 to mark the millennial anniversary of Cnut’s conquest of England and the 950th anniversary of the Norman conquest. The aim was explicitly to do comparative history. Out of this event grew the publication of some papers from this conference, which were paired with separately commissioned papers widening the scope of the original programme.

While focusing on the high politics, the leading players, and the legal and bureaucratic practices surrounding the events, a cultural history of different persons and perspectives takes the scene. With splendid articles on the social, ideological, and artistic framework, a proper cultural history is sketched in this wide-ranging book.




Cnut the Great and Edmund ironside at the Battle of Assandun. Source: Matthew Paris, Chronica Majora, Cambridge, Corpus Christi College MS. 26, fol. 80v/Wikipedia (Open Domain)

Old and New Minster in Winchester. Source: Wikipedia

Early Medieval Winchester

After AD 800, Winchester was gradually established as a prominent royal centre. New books tells the story of how historians and archaeologists have worked together to reconstruct the physical realities of the landscape, the royal and ecclesiastical institutions and their wider impact of the formation of future England.

Early Medieval Winchester: Communities, Authority and Power in an Urban Space, c. 800-c.1 200
Ed by Ryan Lavelle, Simon Roffey, and Katherine Weikert
Oxbow Books 2021


Winchester’s identity as a royal centre became well established between the ninth and twelfth centuries, closely tied to the significance of the religious communities who lived within and without the city walls. 

The reach of power of Winchester was felt throughout England and into the Continent through the relationships of the bishops, the power fluctuations of the Norman period, the pursuit of arts and history writing, the reach of the city’s saints, and more. 

The essays contained in this volume present early medieval Winchester not as a city alone, but a city emmeshed in wider political, social, and cultural movements and, in many cases, providing examples of authority and power that are representative of early medieval England as a whole.

1. Communities, Authority and Power in Winchester, c. 800–c. 1200

Katherine Weikert, Ryan Lavelle, and Simon Roffey

2. Capital Considerations: Winchester and the Birth of Urban Archaeology

Martin Biddle

3. The King’s Stone: Peace, Power and the Highway in Early Medieval Winchester

Alexander James Langlands

4. Royal Burial in Winchester: Context and Significance

Barbara Yorke

5. Constructing Early Medieval Winchester: Historical Narratives and the Compilation of British Library Cotton Otho B.XI

Sharon M. Rowley

6. Winchester, Æthelings and Clitones: The Political Significance of the City for Anglo-Saxon Royalty and Norman Nobility

David McDermott

7. The Execution of Earl Waltheof: Public Space and Royal Authority at the Edge of Eleventh-Century Winchester

Ryan Lavelle

8. Queen, the Countess and the Conflict: Winchester 1141

Katherine Weikert

9. Lantfred and Local Life at Winchester in the 960s and 970s

Mark Atherton

10. Wælcyrian in the Water Meadows: Lantfred’s Furies

Eric Lacey

11. SK27, Or A Winchester Pilgrim’s Tale

Simon Roffey

12. The Early Jewish Community in Twelfth-Century Winchester: An Interdisciplinary View

Toni Griffiths

13. Henry of Blois and an Archbishopric of Winchester: Medieval Rationale and Anglo-Saxon Sources

Alexander R. Rumble

14. Swithun in the North: A Winchester Saint in Norway

Karl Christian Alvestad


Ryan Lavelle is a senior lecturer in medieval history at the University of Winchester where he teaches on Anglo-Saxon England, the Normans and the Norman Conquest, and the Carolingian Renaissance. He specialises in late Anglo-Saxon political history, including royal landholding, especially in Wessex, and early medieval warfare. He is the co-editor of Danes in Wessex (Oxbow 2016).

Simon Roffey is a reader in medieval archaeology at the University of Winchester with research interests in the archaeology of the medieval period, the archaeology of Winchester, church and building archaeology and the influence of the medieval period on creative writing and popular culture, including novels, films, games and art forms.

Dr Katherine Weikert is Senior Lecturer in Early Medieval European History at the University of Winchester. Her main areas of research examine the connections between gender, space and authority in England and Normandy ca 900 to 1200, female hostageships in the central Middle Ages, and the political uses of the medieval past.

Old Wardour Castle © Wiltshite Life

The Castle in England

A vibrant history of the castle in Britain, from the early Middle Ages to the present dayA vibrant history of the castle in Britain, from the early Middle Ages to the present day

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The Sea Stallion at High Water © Isarap

Viking Age Textile Production

The story goes that a Viking learned to keep a stoic face if their ship was lost. However, if the ship sank together with the sails, he cried. New book tells the story of the production system and the economy of the textiles in Viking Age Society

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