281 – England

The last couple of episodes have focused on the political tools that AEthelstan had at his disposal. Marriage alliances, fostering, dynastic cults and diplomatic entreaties were all powerful pieces moving on a huge dark age chess board. And the thing I want you to realize about these things is first, that they took time. A strategic mind – a mind like AEthelstan’s – would see the long game and set his moves accordingly knowing they wouldn’t fully materialize for years to come. The second is that these tools were highly cultural. There’s nothing inherently political about marriage or fostering until a people make it so. By examining the tools that political actors wield we learn something important about the culture and society that underlies it. What it values, and how it prioritizes people and things.

And all of these slow, important tools are working constantly in the background throughout AEthelstan’s reign.

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  1. The website linked to doesn’t seem to be showing any content besides the header-picture?

    1. Hmmm, I just tested it and it worked for me. Perhaps use a different browser or refresh and give the page longer to load?

  2. Just a quick note on Yorvik. In the Roman period the city was actually 2 cities, one north and one south of the river Ouse. The one to the north was the old legionary fortress, the one to the south the civil settlement. Both were walled and are still walled so presumably they would have been in Athelstan’s time. The center of the city is now the northern one and the place where all the viking items are found. But is it possible Olaf found the southern city unoccupied and was able to occupy and re-fortify it?

    1. Possibly? I haven’t read anyone suggesting that, though, so I would guess there’s an element in the archaeology that makes that possibility less likely.

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