Monday 25 July 2011

Insular Economics: Ireland in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries

Event Type: Early Career Workshop
Date: Saturday 10th September
Venue: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research
Address: Downing Street, Cambridge, CB2 3ER

This one-day workshop—hosted by the Department of ASNC and McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research—will be dedicated to exploring the economies and economics of Early Medieval Ireland and their wider Insular contexts.  Papers by early career researchers from Britain and Ireland will explore topics such as numismatics, exchange networks, administrative documentary traditions, settlements, environmental impact and the application of theoretical economic models.

Attendance is free and places are limited.  Please contact one of the coordinators (Denis Casey; Russell Ó Ríagáin or Andy Woods for more information.

Sunday 17 July 2011

Peter’s Pence and Beyond: Monetary Links between Anglo-Saxon England and Rome

Dr Rory Naismith writes:

Despite being separated by a thousand miles of sea, land and mountain, Anglo-Saxon England enjoyed a close connection with Rome: seat of the papacy and a leading beacon of spiritual and cultural authority in early medieval Europe. This special relationship went back to the first mission of St Augustine to the English in 597, sent at the behest of Pope Gregory I (590–604), but persisted in the centuries that followed as English kings, clergy, pilgrims and traders made frequent trips to the eternal city. Many kinds of evidence survive to show how large Rome loomed in the minds of early medieval Englishmen and women. One particularly vivid source for both their piety and their economic interests comes in the form of money brought from England to Rome in the Anglo-Saxon period. Written records show that such gifts were taking place as early as the eighth century, though by the tenth century they had assumed the more or less regular form of Peter’s Pence: a penny donated by every Anglo-Saxon household to St Peter at Rome.

House of the Vestal Virgins in the Forum Romanum, where a hoard of over 800 English coins dating to the tenth century was found in 1883. []

Dr Rory Naismith, a Junior Research Fellow at Clare College, and Dr Francesca Tinti, Ikerbasque Research Professor at the University of the Basque Country and an honorary research associate of ASNaC, have recently been awarded a research grant by the British Academy to look afresh at the movement of money between England and Rome at this time. In the course of 2012, they will go on research visits to Rome to re-examine material in museums and archives. Finds of English coins have been numerous in Rome, among them such famous pieces as a unique gold coin in the name of Offa, king of the Mercians (757–96), made in imitation of an Islamic gold dinar (now in the British Museum). Also, there has been a glut of major hoards from the tenth century comprising about a thousand coins in total. Indeed, English coins constitute the bulk of all those found within Rome dating to between the late eighth and late tenth centuries. These have much to tell about England’s coinage at that time, and also about the nature of links between England and Rome: they say as much about economic activity as devotion, and should be seen as the residue of trade and exchange as well as pious donations. Dr Naismith and Dr Tinti’s research will shed new light on the significance of this material for bonds – cultural, religious and monetary – tying England to Rome at a formative stage.

Coins of Pope Hadrian I (772–95) and Wulfred, archbishop of Canterbury (805–32), the latter drawing inspiration from Hadrian’s earlier coinage. Both coins illustrated courtesy of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

A parallel strand of research will involve analysing the metallic content of a selection of silver coins from the Fitzwilliam Museum minted under the authority of the popes from the 770s to the 970s. These fall during the heyday of movement of English coins to Rome, and have never before been examined in this way. Determining the purity of these coins’ silver, and the quantity of other trace elements within them, might pave the way towards some understanding of where the popes looked for models and bullion in minting their coinage. This might in turn shed some light on the fate of English silver on arrival in Rome: was it melted down to provide local currency, or were other sources of silver drawn on? What was the final chapter of movements of English coin to Rome? 

Tuesday 12 July 2011

More congratulations!

The awards and prizes are flooding in this month! Here are some more:

Dr Nick Zair, Research Fellow in Peterhouse and Affiliated Lecturer in the Faculty of Classics in Cambridge has been awarded the Johann-Kaspar Zeuss Prize for the best PhD in Celtic Studies of 2011. The title of his dissertation, which was completed in Oxford, is: ‘The reflexes of the proto-Indo-European laryngeals in Celtic’. The prize is awarded by the Societas Celtologica Europaea.

Congratulations to Dr Eleanor Barraclough (ASNC) who has been awarded a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship at the University of Oxford.  Dr Barraclough will hold her fellowship in the Faculty of English, with an affiliation to The Queen’s College, and will be working on a research project mapping the literary landscape and conceptual geography of the medieval Norse world, with close readings of the sagas at the heart of the investigation. This literary analysis will be supported by an interdisciplinary methodology that explores the links between the sagas’ literary designs and the geographical conditions, historical reality, socio-political conditions and cultural memories underpinning Norse society.

Wednesday 6 July 2011

Widening participation

As part of the University of Cambridge's ongoing commitment to widening participation in higher education, the Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse & Celtic runs a summer school in association with the Sutton Trust. In these 60-second videos, some of last year's participants talk about their experiences studying ASNC.

Monday 4 July 2011


Congratulations to a number of ASNCs who have receieved various awards and prizes in recent weeks:

At the end of May, Dr Rory Naismith became the youngest recipient (at the age of 27) of the Blunt Prize, awarded by the British Numismatic Society, for his exceptional scholarship on Anglo-Saxon coinage.

The Scandinvian Studies Fund awarded the 2011 Wallenberg Prize to two students: Moa Höijer (ASNC & Hughes Hall) for her essay on 'Perceptions of an outcast: Loki's motivation in Lokasenna', and to George Walkden (Dept of Linguistics & Clare College) for his essay 'The correspondence problem in syntactic reconstructon'. The Wallenberg Prize is awarded for an essay on some subject connected with the language, history or civilization of one or more of the Scandinavian peoples

And last but not least, Dr Denis Casey has been awarded a Fellowship by the Society for Renaissance Studies, to work on Christopher Nugent's primer of the Irish language, created for Elizabeth I, within the contexts of second language teaching during the Renaissance and the Gaelic grammatical tradition. Dr Casey wrote about this primer for the Irish Examiner recently.

Friday 1 July 2011

—•—• ••— •— —•—• •••• ("cuach")

Dr Denis Casey writes:

In Acallam na Senórach, the dialogue between St Patrick and Caílte (an aged survivor of Finn Mac Cumail’s war band) on the places and lore of Ireland, Finn enquired of his companions what music was best.  Their answers conjured up a cacophony of the landscape: baying hounds, bellying stags, swords striking, ladies laughing, cuckoos calling.
Like Caílte’s reminisces, Pat Collins’s film Tim Robinson: Connemara, based on the work of the current Parnell Fellow in Irish Studies, was dominated by sound and music, as much by the physical landscapes and seascapes that have been the subject of Robinson’s work.  The landscape filled the ears, while the camera panned slowly in soft focus over Robinson’s extraordinarily detailed maps of Connemara.  Funneled wind howling through the bearnaí and mámanna faded into a soft breeze over bogs where the naosc binn ’s an crotach glórach could be heard, before morphing into the cry of a gull by the shoreline’s contours, only to be drowned in rhythms drummed against wave-lashed cliffs.  Similarly, Susan Stenger’s soundtrack, inspired by Marconi’s wireless experiments in Connemara, strikingly encapsulated the natural themes, as the Irish word cuach (‘cuckoo’) was played in Morse Code while Robinson searched amid the denuded foliage of Derryclare wood for Cuach na Coille (‘The Cuckoo of the Wood’).

Tim Robinson: Connemara brilliantly brings to another medium the work of a latter day embodiment of both Caílte and Patrick, and is a film deserving of repeated viewing — and listening.  Finn’s conclusion is admirably justified: the best music is ‘the music of what happens’.