The Anglo-Saxon Chancery

March 2015
252 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Anglo-Saxon Studies
ISBN: 9781783270064
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Boydell Press
BISAC HIS037010, LIT011000

The Anglo-Saxon Chancery

The History, Language and Production of Anglo-Saxon Charters from Alfred to Edgar

Ben Snook

An exploration of Anglo-Saxon charters, bringing out their complexity and highlighting a range of broad implications.
More charters survive from Anglo-Saxon England than texts of any other type. In a society in which the ownership of land was fundamental to status, wealth and power, the charters which gifted and guaranteed landholdings were crucial not only as legal documents but also as instruments of political power. As responsibility for their production was increasingly centralised at the royal court in the ninth and tenth centuries, charters also became vehicles for royal and religious propaganda, reflecting the dynamic and creative culture of tenth-century England.
Through an analysis of the extraordinarily sophisticated Latin in which these documents were written, this book demonstrates the literary ambitions of their draughtsmen (who may certainly be considered as Anglo-Latin literary authors in their own right), and also sheds light on the political ideologies of Anglo-Saxon England's most powerful and enigmatic kings and churchmen. Most tantalising of all, perhaps, is the fact that the language of royal charters, which may preserve some of the very words uttered by the king, provides an unparalleled view of the mechanisms by which the developing kingdom of England was governed. Not only does it indicate the increasingly sophisticated bureaucracy of an administratively advanced state, but it also reveals an atmosphere of literary and cultural attainment, emanating directly from the king's court, as rich as any in the early medieval Insular world.

Ben Snook teaches History at the Godolphin and Latymer School, London.

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Table of Contents

Brave New World: the Charters of Alfred and Edward
'Æthelstan A'
Turbulent Priests: Dunstan, Cenwald and Oda
Back to the Future: Edgar and 'Edgar A'


This monograph is an informed and invaluable contribution to the field, supplying a valuable resource that provides new answers to pressing questions and opens up fertile grounds for further consideration and research. MANUSCRIPTA

[T]here is a great deal to enjoy and profit from in this book. SPECULUM

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