153 – An Offa You Can’t Refuse

As you might have guessed, today we’re talking mostly about Offa. But before we get into some of the cool things that were going on under Offa’s reign… lets start with something shady.

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  1. Three alternative interpretations on a sack-load of document threads; debate and conjecture; on the one had the people and on the other hand the nobility; speculation, baby; bring it on! When you first told us you used to be a lawyer, Jamie, I thought “that’s interesting, a lawyer doing something interesting”. Over these many episodes I have gained respect for your skills in document forensics. Now I have every faith and liking of your new turn as a research historian. Your critic has missed the point entirely.

  2. Seconded. Jamie, you’re a great example of why diversity of talents is so important to education. First there are the monks, I mean librarians, who studiously organize, preserve, scan, and copy over all these great sources. Then there are the classical historians, who read the sources with a bit of bias-du-jour, and translate them into digestible synthesis. And then there’s this suspicious lawyer guy, armed with archaeological record and primary source alike, shouting “objection!” and finding all kind of new avenues for interpretation and reasoning. And he’s the one with the show LOL

    Keep up the thoughtfulness and transparency of how you arrived at your conclusions! Not enough people realize how little we know for sure about the past.

  3. I welcome the depth and reason you put into your arguments – it gives colour, plausibility and likelihood to events in a time that is so often dismissed.

    I was a little surprised at one thing though. Given your thorough pattern of describing the various front running scenarios, I was disappointed when you just brushed the most obvious explanation aside and went with your narrative bias to claim that Offa built the dyke, when it is highly plausible that he actually rebuilt and refurbished the Severin Wall.

    1. I’m sorry that you felt I wasn’t giving enough competing theories. The idea that the wall is much older is relatively new and hasn’t been universally adopted, so I went with most mainstream historians and Asser. However, I tried to make it clear that there are scholars who suspect that the wall was built earlier but their findings haven’t been conclusive so far and until something more firm comes up I was just going to continue with the current mainstream view on the dyke.

  4. How did you come up with Unfirth as your stock example of the hapless commoner? I’ve been binge-listening at work to catch up and every time you deride Unfirth and his lack of position I burst out laughing. I’m starting to lose face.

  5. Critical thinking? Well, Jamie, my experience teaching in the U.S….well to be honest in Georgia which might not be representative of the general trend in education in the U.S., I was appalled at the lack of teaching how to deal with complicated or convoluted issues. I remember a meeting with the Curriculum Developer at the College I was teaching in which I complained about this fact. Her answer? “We are not here to teach that. Students need certainties not speculation or analysis of conflictive theories.”
    I finished that academic year and came back to my country. I just couldn’t deal with such a level of ignorance coming from the higher echelons of Academia.
    So, yeah, people want it easy. Only nerds like us want if the other way around.
    Keep up the formidable job you are doing.

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