This project is investigating travel and communications in Anglo-Saxon England using place-names, archaeological evidence, and written sources.
Despite its evident importance for understanding several aspects of Anglo-Saxon society, including warfare, commerce, and polity formation and extent, the Anglo-Saxon routeway network has not previously been investigated in detail at the national level. The existence of a network of Roman roads before the Anglo-Saxon period is well known, and it has often been assumed that the Roman road network remained in use throughout the Anglo-Saxon period. As a result, travel in Anglo-Saxon England is often discussed in relation to the Roman road network. However, as the majority of the known Roman roads did not survive into use in the early modern period, the likelihood is that some of these roads went out of use during the Anglo-Saxon period. Conversely, some of the non-Roman roads in use by the early modern period may have come into use during the Anglo-Saxon period. By combining archaeological, place-name, and charter evidence, the project will shed light on the routeways that were in use during the Anglo-Saxon period.
The project will draw on the findings and methodologies of two previous collaborations between the INS at the University of Nottingham and the Institute of Archaeology at University College London: Beyond the Burghal Hidage and Landscapes of Governance. A small number of studies into the Anglo-Saxon routeway network have recently been completed, but these studies have either examined a restricted geographical area or have focussed on one type of evidence. The Travel and Communications project will build on and expand the scope of these existing studies by considering place-name evidence, textual sources, and archaeological evidence at the national scale. In addition to place-name evidence, the project team will map evidence from archaeologically-attested early-medieval routes and route-related monuments (for instance bridges, gates, road-side crosses) and compare the the relationship of routeways to other landscape features, for instance field-boundaries.
Drawing on the mapping work of the project's early stages, which will be complemented by detailed regional case studies, the evidence of the reconstructed Anglo-Saxon routeways will be interrogated in relation to three broad themes: (i) social complexity and change, both within the Anglo-Saxon period and in comparison with earlier and later evidence; (ii) material culture and commerce; (iii) the cognitive landscape, investigated primarily through the textual and place-name record.
The project's findings will be made available through a GIS-generated publicly-accessible Online Atlas of the Anglo-Saxon route-system, co-authored journal articles, and a co-authored monograph.
The project team will present their findings at national and international conferences throughout the project's lifetime.