The English Settlements

The English Settlements

The English Settlements

The English Settlements

Synopsis

Here, Myres looks anew at the dark centuries of English history between the collapse of Roman rule in the early fifth century and the emergence of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in the seventh--the subject of the now-classic Roman Britain and the English Settlements by Collingwood and Myres--and reconsiders the period in light of abundant recent research in the field. New linguistic findings have led to a significant shift in emphasis, which is now reflected in this last volume of the Oxford History of England. The author illuminates some of the little-understood factors that link Roman Britain with Anglo-Saxon England, and suggests certain political and social continuities that help to clarify this complex and traumatic historical era.

Excerpt

When Volume I of the Oxford History of England was published in 1936 it contained, in addition to R. G. Collingwood's full-length study of Roman Britain, a final section of five chapters in which I endeavoured to summarize the current state of knowledge on the English settlements which took place between the collapse of Roman rule in the fifth century and the emergence of the Anglo- Saxon kingdoms in the seventh. I had been asked to contribute this section in order to fill a gap between Collingwood's account of Roman Britain in Volume I and the massive study of Anglo-Saxon England which Professor F. M. (later Sir Frank) Stenton was to write as Volume ii in the series, for neither Collingwood nor Stenton wished to concern themselves in detail with the dark centuries between. It would have been natural for my chapters on this obscure period to have formed rather a prologue to Anglo-Saxon England than an epilogue to Roman Britain. Their purpose was to look forward to the future and it was in these years that the foundations of England were laid in the collapsing ruins of the Roman world. But Collingwood Roman Britain was to be ready for the press some years before Stenton Anglo- Saxon England and, being shorter than Stenton's book was likely to prove, had more space that could be spared to accommodate what had to be said about the English settlements.

This more or less fortuitous circumstance led to Volume I of the Oxford History becoming known to generations of history students as 'Collingwood and Myres'. the implication which the phrase carried, that it was a cooperative product of joint authorship, was entirely erroneous. Collingwood himself was eager to make this clear from the start. the first sentence of his preface reads 'This volume is not a work of collaboration', and it was not in fact until his text was in final draft that I learnt that he proposed to pursue the story of Roman Britain far beyond its generally accepted termination in the early years of the fifth century to include a sub-Roman epilogue in the Arthurian age. That he did so made it difficult . . .

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