The Sword in Early Medieval Northern Europe
Title Details

232 Pages

23.4 x 15.6 cm

40 b/w. 5 line. Illustrations

Series: Anglo-Saxon Studies

Imprint: Boydell Press

The Sword in Early Medieval Northern Europe

Experience, Identity, Representation

by Sue Brunning

  • Description
  • Contents
  • Reviews
A wide-ranging study of the significance of swords throughout the whole Anglo-Saxon period, offering valuable insights into the meaning of and attitude towards swords.
Swords were special in Anglo-Saxon England. Their names, deeds and pedigrees were enshrined in writing. Many were curated for generations, revealed by their worn and mended condition. Few ended their lives as casual discards, placed instead in graves, hoards and watercourses as part of ritualised acts. Contemporary sources leave no doubt that complex social meanings surrounded these weapons, transcending their use on the battlefield; but they have yet to transcend the traditional view that their primary social function was as status symbols. Even now, half a century after the first major study of Anglo-Saxon swords, their wider significance within their world has yet to be fully articulated.
This book sets out to meet the challenge. Eschewing modern value judgements, it focuses instead on contemporary perceptions - exploring how those who made, used and experienced swords really felt about them. It takes a multidisciplinary and holistic approach, bringing together insights from art, archaeology and literature. Comparison with Scandinavia adds further nuance, revealing what was (and was not) distinctive of Anglo-Saxon views of these weapons. Far from elite baubles, swords are revealed to have been dynamic "living" artefacts with their own identities, histories and places in social networks - ideas fuelled by their adaptability, durability and unique rolein bloodshed.

Sue Brunning is Curator of European Early Medieval Collections at The British Museum.
Introduction: Swords in Mind
Image
Archaeology
Text
'Living' Swords: Thought, Identity, Experience
Postscript
Appendix 1: Images and Swords Referenced in the Text
Appendix 2: Compact Disc of Databases
Bibliography
"A small but perfectly formed book." SAXON
"Brunning's careful interdisciplinary study of swords in the early medieval North will interest scholars from a range of fields, including literature, history, art history, archaeology, material culture, military studies, and the anthropology of violence. Scholars whose work intersects with new materialisms will also find much to admire in Brunning's balanced investigation of the complex interactions and likenesses between swords and human beings. By combining good judgment with ample learning in a variety of disciplines, Brunning has produced an important contribution to knowledge that is as challenging as it is rigorous.​" The Medieval Review
"This book represents a triumph among multi-disciplinary approaches to material culture. . . . The serious scholarship and playful inventiveness of this volume are the key characteristics that will ensure the longevity of its contribution." Speculum

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9781783274062

June 2019

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Title Details

232 Pages

2.34 x 1.56 cm

40 b/w. 5 line. Illustrations

Series: Anglo-Saxon Studies

Imprint: Boydell Press