123 – Retail Therapy: The Rise of Anglo Saxon Towns

Alright, lets get to history. Specifically, lets talk about towns. And to start with, lets establish a couple terms I’m going to be using a lot. When I talk about towns and cities, what I’m largely talking about are larger communities that have a permanent population of traders and craftsmen and whose economy is focused largely upon trade. Conversely, villages are smaller communities that are built largely around agriculture. Villages might have more land than a town, but their population density will be much less (by nature of the work they do and the amount of arable land they require) and their economies tend to be more localized and based upon subsistence when compared with towns and cities.

Ok, so towns… we’ve been lacking them for a while. At the dawn of the fifth century, Britain had them… and then the people endured a series of calamaties. The chaos of the continent resulted in Roman emperors (and usurpers) to drain the island of its warrior population and defenders. And don’t forget that a big part of the process of romanization was to eliminate the warrior culture of the local britons, which meant that once the trained Roman soldiers and auxilleries were gone… there weren’t many people who knew much more about warfare beyond “put the pointy end of the stick into the other guy.”

And as you already know, rival kingdoms took advantage of this, and Britain was wracked with raids and internal strife for quite some time… and as a result, within about two generations following the dawn of the fifth century, towns stopped working the way they had once worked. Naturally, there were still populations, but the specialization, organization, and stratification that was part of Romanized life was gone. Life retreated to a much more localized form, and with very few exceptions, trade had fallen away (or the very least, became much more limited than it had once been). And by our period (the seventh century) the small towns that supported the Romano-British economy had vanished.

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  1 comment for “123 – Retail Therapy: The Rise of Anglo Saxon Towns

  1. B.
    July 4, 2014 at 5:23 am

    Regarding southern pronunciation, I was in London last weekend, and at one point I had to ask for directions at at train station. What sounded to me like “Eesrom” actually turned out to be “East Croydon” !

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