The Long Eighth Century

By Inge Lyse Hansen; Chris Wickham | Go to book overview

EXCHANGE AND POLITICS:
THE EIGHTH-EARLY NINTH CENTURY IN DENMARK
Ulf Näsman

The peripheral geographical as well as economic position of the regions of Scandinavia makes them, I believe, very sensitive to changes in the European economic exchange systems. Studies of Scandinavian external contacts are thus important contributions to the understanding of the distribution of goods and the economic as well as political network that in the Early Middle Ages connected European realms with one another as well as with Byzantium. One important aspect of the problem of production, distribution, and demand is the prelude of urbanism outside the former Roman empire, and here Scandinavian archaeology has much to offer. The long eighth century saw the establishment of the first proto-urban sites in South Scandinavia and their subsequent growth into early towns.1

In the sixth century, Scandinavia was a periphery outside the Merovingian sphere of interest, and consequently very seldom mentioned in the written sources; in the seventh century all is silence.2 As a result of a growing Frankish interests in northern Europe, especially after the northerly expansion of the Carolingians, South Scandinavia appears again in the eighth century. Early in the century, Angantyr is the second Danish rex to be mentioned in a Frankish source.3 The conquests of Charlemagne in the late eighth century made the realm of the Danes into a Frankish border land, and as

____________________
1
For the concept proto-towns, see H. Clarke and A. Simms “Towards a comparative history of urban origin”, in H. Clarke and A. Simms eds., The comparative history of urban origins in non-Roman Europe, BAR International Series 255/1–2 (Oxford, 1985), pp. 669–714.
2
I. Wood, The Merovingian North Sea (Alingsås, 1983); U. Näsman, “The Justinianic era of South Scaninavia: an archaeological view”, in R. Hodges and W. Bowden eds., The sixth century. Production, distribution and demand, The Transformation of the Roman World 3 (Leiden, 1998), pp. 255–78.
3
Appears as Ongendus in Alcuin: Vita Sancti Willibrordi, ed. W. Levinson, Monumenta Germaniae Historica. Scriptaes rerum merovingicarum 7 (Hannover, 1920), pp. 81–141; quoted in I. Skovgaard-Petersen, “The written sources”, in B. Bencard ed., Ribe excavations 1970–76, vol. 1 (Esbjerg, 1981), pp. 21–62.

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