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Impact and change : assembly practices in the Northern Danelaw

This thesis investigates the form, function and development of assembly practices in the Ridings of Yorkshire, a region of significant Scandinavian settlement from the ninth century onwards. It investigates the extent to which these demographic and cultural changes affected existing assembly practices and also the degree to which one can identify the introduction of Nordic conciliar mores. In particular, it focuses on the assembly sites and territories associated with the hundreds and wapentakes outlined in Domesday Book. These are considered in terms of their emergence and context in early medieval law, their relations to earlier accounts of assemblies and their subsequent reception in historical scholarship. The forms and distributions of both documented and assembly-attesting place-names are assessed. These demonstrate significant Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian influence on the nomenclature. Consideration of the immediate form of the documented and place-name attested assemblies has revealed both variety and patterning, not least in terms of the recurrent cultic elements associated with trees, crosses, and plausibly mounds, each of which often served as the monumental focus of a given assembly. Consideration of the assembly territories demonstrated differing ways of framing the landscape, likely reflecting settlement and agricultural routines but also at times providing evidence for the abrupt imposition of territorial schemata. The most vital finding is the widespread prevalence of assembly in ancillary situations to significant settlements and estate-centres. The use of prominent ridgelines above and apart from settlement in the East Riding shows that there was a clear symbolic role to this separation of activities. Assemblies on estate borders appear to reflect analogous practice. Finally, Scandinavian influence was found at all levels in the surviving evidence for assembly practices in the Northern Danelaw, but this almost certainly reflects active engagement with existing practices rather than the imposition of new customs on a newly settled land.
Date January 2014
CreatorsSkinner, Alexis Tudor
PublisherDurham University
Source SetsEthos UK
Detected LanguageEnglish
TypeElectronic Thesis or Dissertation

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