Masters Thesis

From the death of eagles to the coming of wolves: the creation of post-Roman Britain 400-600 C.E.

This Research explores the transition from post-Roman British to Anglo-Saxon as the dominant culture of England took place between the fifth and seventh centuries by utilizing the disciplines of history and archaeology. Studying cultures without a written tradition or limited primary sources such as the two studied in this research, results in a great limitation of evidence. Without any direct written records to assist them or only very few, historians turn to ethnohistorical methods, requiring them to filter through culture biases and issues of intended audience, genre, and intent of the text to find clues as to the nature of certain historical events and cultural aspects of interest. Archaeology supplies a great wealth of knowledge as to related material culture but suffers due to the disconnection between archaeological and historical scholarly literature. What has been revealed through research combining these two disciplines is a long-standing narrative of the British peoples not having agency in their own history. The narrative of both disciplines until the 2000’s, was that Britain was conquered and occupied by Rome, and then quickly fell into chaos after Rome’s exodus in the early fifth century. It was then quickly conquered by Anglo-Saxons by the beginning of the sixth century as most of the material culture dated to the sixth century was classified as Anglo- Saxon. Recent Archaeological research, however, namely that of Francis Pryor, James Gerrad, and Stuart Laycock suggest a counter narrative; one in which the British peoples had a direct and dramatic influence on the changes in Britain of the late fourth to sixth centuries. This narrative has been formed by challenging three major elements of the narrative conquest: Pryor argues that elements of British culture survived and thrived in the late days of the Roman occupation and returned in many ways to a pre-Roman Britain after the Roman exodus. Gerrad challenges the notion of an economic collapse when the Roman influence in Britain collapsed and bolsters Pryor’s argument of a fiercely independent Britain after the Roman occupation in an examination of a resurgence of a pastoral and agricultural focused economy practiced in pre-Roman Britain. Laycock adds to this narrative of British agency by arguing that it was British tribal conflicts, not necessarily invading Germanic peoples that shaped Britain in the late fourth through sixth centuries. This new narrative of British agency will be investigated and combined with the argument that the transition from post-Roman British to Anglo-Saxon as the dominant culture in Britain during the Migration Era was not the result of conquest but of cultural integration and assimilation. This argument will focus on three major elements of study: The rise of British power and influence in the waning years of the Roman occupation and the formation of a fiercely independent Britain in the decades following the Roman exodus. It will be followed by an intensive investigation and challenge to the founding of Kent, which according to the invasion narrative was the first seat of power in the Anglo- Saxon conquest. Finally, a comparison of settlement patterns and land management between British and Anglo-Saxon cultures will be examined to challenge the invasion narrative on a country wide scale.