Thursday 27 October 2011

Insular Economics - Workshop Report

Dr Denis Casey writes:

The interdisciplinary Insular Economics workshop, run jointly by Andy Woods and Russell Ó Ríagáin (McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research) and Denis Casey (Department of ASNC) was held in the McDonald Institute on Saturday 10th of September.

The workshop was opened by Dr Máire Ní Mhaonaigh (Reader in Celtic at ASNC, and Fellow of St John’s College, Cambridge) and there followed a series of papers that offered major challenges to current scholarly assumptions about economic activity in medieval Ireland and how it is studied.  For example, volumes of coin use in medieval Dublin were shown to be considerably higher than one might have imagined, methods of defining economic hinterlands were challenged and texts such as Lebor na Cert (‘The Book of Rights’) were the subject of fresh scrutiny.

The workshop finished with an open discussion led by Dr James Barrett (Deputy Director of the McDonald Institute) in which a number of the points raised were further examined and the thorny question of synthesis in archaeological, historical and textual studies explored to limited agreement!  Nonetheless, it is hoped that many of the contributors will go on to publish their findings and contribute substantially to the study of the economy/economies and economics of medieval Ireland.

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Festival of Ideas

On Saturday 29th October, the Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse & Celtic will be holding a series of short public lectures on the theme of 'War and Peace in the Early Middle Ages' as part of Cambridge University's Festival of Ideas. Speakers will include Prof. Simon Keynes, on recent archaeological evidence for violence towards Vikings in Anglo-Saxon England, and Dr Judy Quinn on the valkyrie in Old Norse literature. This event is free, and open to all (suitable for ages 14+), but pre-booking is required. For details, see the Festival of Ideas website.

Viking-Age execution site in Dorset, picture from BBC News website

Friday 21 October 2011

More ASNC-related news stories

The BBC reported yesterday that funding has been secured to conserve the Nigg cross-slab.

Also, to celebrate the discovery of the Ardnamurchan Viking boat burial, ASNC's Dr Elizabeth Ashman Rowe was on BBC Radio 4's 'World at One' news programme, reading some suitable Skaldic verse in Old Norse and in English translation (skip forward to 0:28:50. N.B.: the BBC iplayer facility is not available in all countries, and programmes can only be heard for 7 days after broadcast).

Wednesday 19 October 2011

ASNC-related news stories

Many of you will have seen the news about the Ardnamurchan Viking boat burial. On a somewhat related note, Fintan O'Toole continues his 'history of Ireland in 100 objects' in The Irish Times and enters the Viking Age. Previous articles by O'Toole in this series have covered the medieval Irish high crosses and an eighth-century crucifixion plaque. Rather belatedly, we also draw your attention to the news about the Oxford Viking massacre site, which was reported in the BBC a few months ago.

Friday 7 October 2011

Converting the Isles

Dr Roy Flechner writes:

On Friday and Saturday 23 - 24 September 2011, the Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic (University of Cambridge) hosted a two-day interdisciplinary conference on conversion to Christianity in North West Europe. It featured papers by an international group of historians, archaeologists and philologists, who were given a unique forum in which to explore conversion comparatively by focusing on different parts of Britain, Ireland, Scandinavia and Iceland in the early and central middle ages. The combination of places chosen for the discussion reflects our wish to establish a wide comparative framework, covering areas that are of significance to the study of conversion in both the pre-Viking and the Viking era. The talks were recorded and audio podcasts will be posted online soon.

high cross, Drumcliffe, Co. Sligo
(photo by Dr Elizabeth Boyle)

The format of the conference was unique in that speakers were asked to deliver talks in sessions with prescribed titles, for instance 'Perceptions of Pagan and Christian', 'Conversion Processes', or 'Ritual'. Each session comprised two speakers, who represented either distinct disciplines, or who work on different parts of the Insular world. The idea behind this format was to encourage dialogue across geographical and disciplinary boundaries, and by so doing to expand the academic discourse on conversion to Christianity and make it more inclusive. The success of the conference has made us confident that an even wider inclusive framework -- encompassing Western Europe as a whole -- is something to strive for. Sixty-three delegates registered for the conference, comprising an even mix of established academics and students. Attendence was not confined to Britain: delegates also arrived from Ireland, Germany and the United States. Since the conference's central objective was to foster a genuine constructive dialogue between academics who study conversion, much time was devoted to discussion after the talks, and the conference concluded with a very energetic round table discussion attended by approximately thirty people. Participants at the discussion were given a chance to develop topics that were raised by the speakers, and explore them in depth, but also informally. In addition, ideas for future collaboration between scholars were aired, and are now being pursued.

We are grateful to the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Conference Series Fund, the Newton Trust, and the Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, for their generous financial support that enabled this conference to proceed.

The Festschrift for Thomas Charles-Edwards was also launched as part of this event.

Monday 3 October 2011

Professor Thomas Charles-Edwards

Dr Fiona Edmonds writes:

On the evening of Friday 24th September, a reception was held on the ASNC terrace in conjunction with the highly successful Pagan and Christian conference. The reception provided an excellent opportunity to launch a new book: TOME: Studies in Medieval Celtic History and Law in Honour of Thomas Charles-Edwards. A number of the contributors to the volume were present. Thomas Charles-Edwards, who had been speaking at the Pagan and Christian conference, was present at the reception. He had not been aware of the book launch, and it proved to be a pleasant surprise for him (we hope!).

 A toast to Professor Thomas Charles-Edwards

The book was edited by two of Thomas’s former students, Paul Russell and Fiona Edmonds, both of the department of ASNC. Fiona and Paul gave speeches praising Thomas’s contribution as a teacher of undergraduate students, a supervisor of graduate students, and a leading member of the scholarly community. We also praised Thomas’s highly significant contribution to scholarship, which is demonstrated by the bibliography included in TOME. Paul took the opportunity to explain the book’s title, which has provoked considerable interest. The title has a double inspiration: not only is the latest of Thomas's big books always known in his family as 'the tome', but the so-called 'Pillar of Thomas' (Lower Court Farm, Margam, now in the Margam Stones Museum), which features on the book's cover (the image expertly drawn by Ben Russell) shows a carved cross with the word TO || ME with two letters either side of the shaft of the cross. TOME (a spelling for the Latin genitive singular Tomae) means 'of Thomas' and could scarcely be more appropriate as a title for this volume. But, of course, TOME could also be a dative singular, 'for Thomas', and that is indeed what this volume is with gratitude and affection.

The editors with Prof. Thomas Charles-Edwards

The volume features essays that range across the medieval Celtic world, including medieval Wales, Ireland and Scotland. In the first part of the volume, they cover historical aspects (and, as is fitting, often reflect the honorand's interest in archaeology and epigraphy); in the second, they focus on medieval Irish and Welsh legal institutions and texts, which are used by some to inform new readings of literary texts. For more information, see the website of the publisher, Boydell and Brewer.