101 – I Ran (So Far Away): The Life and Times of Edwin of Deira

Today we’re going to talk quite a bit about Northumbria. And actually, Northumbria is going to start to get really important in our story going forward. Now much of what we know of Northumbria during this period is due to the efforts of Bede, and other Northumbrians who maintained his tradition of keeping annals. And actually, it’s been argued that even the term “Northumbria” might have been coined by Bede himself. So clearly this is a very important source for us.

But something to keep in mind with this fact, is that Bede wasn’t writing from personal experience. He wasn’t yet a twinkle in his grandfather’s eye when these events occurred. He wouldn’t be born for another 56 years, and wouldn’t be writing his annals for much longer than that. So where does the information come from? After all, no one alive would have any memory of the events.

Well, a large portion of it comes from oral sources. And we need to keep in mind that oral stories can shift depending on who’s doing the speaking, what is remembered, and how it is remembered. Naturally, simply because something is written down doesn’t make it true. I’m sure you already knew that from being internet savvy. But the fact that Bede is dealing with oral sources does create a bit of uncertainty with these accounts.

Another aspect to keep in mind is that the information regarding Northumbria is coming out of the educated men of society. Learned men. Men who knew how to write. So… men who lived in monasteries. Monasteries (Northumbrian or otherwise) did not have a single unified culture on the island and, as we’ve touched on several times now, not all monasteries were created equal. A Northumbrian Monastery might not behave the same, nor see things the same, as a monastery in Canterbury for example.

We are dealing with cultural differences, both in terms of clergy vs. laymen, but also in northumbrian vs. southern, english vs. welsh, and Monkwearmouth Monastery (which was Bede’s monastery) vs. all the other monasteries. Bede had a very specific point of view and, like everyone who has ever lived, he wasn’t immune to bias.

  6 comments for “101 – I Ran (So Far Away): The Life and Times of Edwin of Deira

  1. Sarah Reetz
    October 23, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    THIS IS FANTASTIC! I’ve had a jones for early British history for decades (too ashamed to be specific). I found your podcast via the Medievalist.net and found them via Paul Blinkhorn on FB. Starting off with your latest episode, it was very cool to see a bit of my family tree posted this week:Team Aethelfrith (sorry). I’m giddy with the prospect of spending hours and hours listening to this. THANKS!

    • October 23, 2013 at 3:19 pm

      :D Welcome! And since you’re on team AEthelfrith, I’m guessing you know how next week’s episode will go. ;)

  2. Ann Baxter
    October 31, 2013 at 11:50 am

    Hi Jamie

    I think there may be a problem with the ‘Play in new window’ and ‘Download’ links for this episode (OK for Ep 126). Using Safari browser – no problems previously.

    • October 31, 2013 at 11:54 am

      Ok, can you try it now?

    • Ann Baxter
      October 31, 2013 at 12:23 pm

      Yep – all good now. Many thanks.

  3. June 29, 2014 at 12:46 am

    Really enjoying these episodes Jamie. I am a native of Northumbria (specifically Bernicia, as I’ve just learned) and my mum was born in Monkwearmouth, where Bede lived, so these episodes involving my part of the world are especially cool. Ashamed to say how little I knew about my own patch, so thanks for all your research and an excellent podcast.

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