Institute for Name-Studies

Landscapes of Governance

This three-year interdisciplinary research project was funded by the Leverhulme Trust and was a collaborative venture between the Institute of Archaeology at University College London (UCL) and the INS at the University of Nottingham. It brought archaeology, place-names, and written sources together in a national study of early medieval assembly sites.

Shipton Barrow, meeting-place of the Domesday hundred of Cheneward’berge (later Chadlington Hundred) in Oxfordshire.
The Domesday name means ‘Cyneweard’s mound or barrow’.


Early medieval western Europe developed in the shadow of the classical Roman world. While substantial traces of the organizational capacity of the Roman Empire can still be seen in Britain, for example the Roman road network and Hadrians Wall, evidence for power and authority in the centuries following the Roman occupation is much more subtle.

Arbitration, negotiation, and dispute settlement took place at public gatherings, and were fundamental to the formation of kingdoms and ultimately the nation state of England. Assembly sites were therefore important at many levels of early medieval society - royal, regional, local, and urban - and they provided a means whereby royal and official prerogative met with local concerns. Landscapes of Governance was the first was the first comprehensive, interdisciplinary study of this type of site.

The project built on earlier work by Anderson, Meaney, Pantos, and others, and the Beyond the Burghal Hidage project, developing a methodology for the study of open-air assembly sites. This involved three main strands:

  1. data collection and the compilation of a database of Anglo-Saxon meeting-places, which will become a searchable online resource;
  2. digital mapping of Anglo-Saxon districts and meeting-places, providing the first national map of this kind;
  3. site recording, based on visits to c.300 meeting-places, and using a proforma developed by the project team.

Data collection was aided by the assistance of a number of independent researchers and local groups, who were able to download the fieldwork proforma from the project website. Prior to the appearance of the online database, the estate of Olof Anderson has granted permission for his three volume study of English hundred-names to be made available electronically, and this is also available on the project website.

In 2012 the project team organised a conference (‘Power and Place’) at the Institute of Archaeology (UCL), bringing together speakers from around the world, covering topics relating to governance in late antiquity and the early medieval period from across Europe, including the Baltic and Scandinavia, the Balkans, France, Spain, and the British Isles.

The research has already generated a number of scholarly articles. An edited volume based on the conference contributions will appear in 2014, and the project monograph, Landscapes of Governance: Legal Geographies and Political Order in Anglo-Saxon England, AD 400–1066, shortly afterwards.


Publications and Conferences


Baker, J. and Brookes, S. (forthcoming 2015), Landscapes of Governance: legal geographies and political order in Anglo-Saxon England, AD 400–1066.

Reynolds, A. and Smith, K. P. (eds) (2013 in press), The Archaeology of Legal Culture (World Archaeology 43.3). Abingdon: Routledge.

Brookes, S. and Harrington, S. (2011), The Kingdom and People of Kent AD 400-1066. Stroud: History Press, chapter 5.

Glass, H., Garwood, P. Champion, T., Book, P., Reynolds, A. and Munby, J. (2011), Tracks Through Time: The Archaeology of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link. Oxford: Oxford Archaeology.

Carroll, J., Reynolds, A., Yorke, B. (eds.) (in preparation), Power and Place in Later Roman and Early Medieval Europe.


Book Chapters

Brookes, S. (2011), ‘The lathes of Kent: a review of the evidence’, in S. Brookes, S. Harrington and A. Reynolds (eds), Studies in Early Anglo-Saxon Art and Archaeology: Papers in Honour of Martin G. Welch. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports 527: 156–70.

Baker, J. (2013 in press), 'A toponymic analysis of six parishes around Eastbourne, East Sussex', in C. Greatorex, The Archaeological Excavation of a Late Iron Age and Anglo-Saxon Cemetery at St Anne's Road, Eastbourne, East Sussex, 243–47.

Baker, J. and Brookes, S. (2014 in press), 'Landscapes of Violence in Early Medieval Wessex: towards a reassessment of Anglo-Saxon strategic landscapes', in Ryan Lavelle and Simon Roffey (eds), Danes in Wessex: The Scandinavian Impact on Southern England, c.800-c.1100. Winchester University Press.

Baker, J. (2014 in press), 'The Toponymy of Communal Activity: Anglo-Saxon Assembly Sites and their Functions', Proceedings of ICOS XXIV, Barcelona, September 2011.

Baker, J. (2014 forthcoming), 'Meeting in the shadow of heroes? Personal names and the socio-political background of assembly places', in J. Carroll, A. Reynolds, and B. Yorke (eds), Power and Place in Later Roman and Early Medieval Europe.

Brookes, S. (2014 forthcoming), ‘“Folk” cemeteries, assembly and territorial geography in early Anglo-Saxon England’, in J. Carroll, A. Reynolds and B. Yorke (eds), Power and place in Later Roman and early medieval Europe: interdisciplinary perspectives on governance and civil organization.

Brookes, S. (2014 forthcoming), ‘Viking-age Kent, c. 800-1042’, in I. Coulson, A. Richardson and J. Weekes (eds), Early Medieval Kent, AD800–1220. Woodbridge: Boydell.

Reynolds, A. (2014 forthcoming), ‘Meeting-places and the urban process in Anglo-Saxon England’, in J. Carroll, A. Reynolds, and B. Yorke (eds), Power and Place in Later Roman and Early Medieval Europe.

Baker, J. (2014 forthcoming), 'Hertfordshire Hundreds: Names and Places', for ed. K. Lockyear, Archaeology in Hertfordshire: Recent Research.

Baker, J. and Brookes, S. (2014 in draft), 'Gates, gateways and gatu', in S. Semple, R. Gowland and C. Orsini (eds), Papers from the 63rd Sachsensymposium/ Neue Studien zur Sachsenforschung.


Journal Articles 

Baker, J., Brookes, S. and Reynolds, A. (2011), 'The law of the land: finding early medieval assembly sites', British Archaeology120:46–49.

Baker, J., Brookes, S. and Reynolds, A. (2011), 'Landscapes of governance. Assembly sites in England 5th-11th centuries', Post Classical Archaeologies1:499–502.

Brookes, S. (2012), ‘Settled Landscapes – a regional perspective of Early Anglo-Saxon settlement in Kent’, in R. Annaert, K. De Groote, J. Hollevoet, F. Theuws, D. Tys and L. Verslype (eds), The Very Beginnings of Europe? Brussels: Relicta Monografieën 7:69–80.

Baker, J., Brookes, S., Gaunt, A., Mallet, L. and Reddish, S. (2013), 'Community archaeology at Thynghowe, Birklands, Sherwood Forest', Transactions of the Thoroton Society of Nottinghamshire 116:53–71.

Baker, J., and Brookes, S. (2013), 'Monumentalising the political landscape: a special class of Anglo-Saxon assembly-sites', The Antiquaries Journal 93:147–62.

Baker, J., and Brookes, S. (2013) 'Fulham 878–79: a new consideration of Viking manoeuvres', Viking and Medieval Scandinavia 8:23–52.

Baker, J., and Brookes, S. (2013), 'Governance at the Anglo-Scandinavian interface: hundredal organisation in the Danelaw', for Journal of the North Atlantic.

Reynolds, A. (2013 in press). ‘Archaeological correlates for the emergence of judicial culture’, in A. Reynolds and K. P. Smith (eds), The Archaeology of Legal Culture (World Archaeology 43.3). Abingdon: Routledge.

Baker, J., and Brookes, S. (2013 in press), 'Outside the gate: sub-urban legal practices in early medieval England', in A. Reynolds and K. P. Smith (eds), The Archaeology of Legal Culture (World Archaeology43.3). Abingdon: Routledge.

Baker, J., and Brookes, S. (forthcoming) 'Developing a field archaeology of outdoor assembly in early Medieval England', Journal of Field Archaeology.

Baker, J., and Brookes, S. (Submitted), 'Explaining Anglo-Saxon military efficiency: the landscape of mobilisation', Anglo-Saxon England.

Baker, J., Brookes, S. and Reynolds, A. (In draft), ‘Landscapes of Local Administration: the Hundredal Geography of Anglo-Saxon England’, Medieval Archaeology.


Conference Papers 

Baker, 'Gateways, Gates, and Gatu: liminal spaces at the centre of things', with Stuart Brookes, 63rd Internationales Sachsensymposiom, Durham, 5 September 2012.

Baker, 'Landscapes of Governance: Place-Names and Interdisciplinarity', English Place-Name Society annual lecture. 21 July 2012.

Baker, 'Meeting in the shadow of heroes? Personal names and the socio-political background of assembly places', Landscapes of Governance conference, November 2011 (co-organiser of conference).

Baker, 'The Vocabulary of Anglo-Saxon Assembly', International Congress of Onomastic Sciences (ICOS), University of Barcelona, 5-9 September 2011.

Baker, 'Place-names and Anglo-Saxon assembly sites', SNSBI conference, Canterbury, 15-17 April 2011.


Public Engagement

Papers and workshops were delivered to a number of community groups

Community Landscape and Archaeology Survey Project AGM, Paulerspury, Northamptonshire (15 September 2010)

Kent Archaeological Society, Rochester (6 November 2010)

Cambridge Antiquarian Society, Cambridge (6 December 2010)

Thing Sites International Networking Group, Orkney (17 April 2010, in absentia)

CBA South Midlands spring conference, Northampton (9 April 2011)

Leicestershire Museums Archaeology Fieldwork Group, Jewry Wall Museum, Leicester (19 January 2012)

Midland Viking Symposium, University of Leicester (28 April 2012)

Welwyn Archaeological Society Conference, Welwyn Garden City (14 July 2012)

St Neots Local History Society (1 March 2013)

Norton Community Archaeology (13 March 2013)


Project Team

Related Links

Landscapes of Governance (UCL)

Institute of Archaeology, UCL Friends of Thynghowe  The Assembly Project The THING Project



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