Anglo-Saxon smallholder development

Anglo-Saxon village at West Stow. Image taken from Geograph project collection. Copyright owned by Keith Evans. Image licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.
The BBC has a fascinating series of short talks about Anglo-Saxons. Not the people, mind you, but people. Individual men and women, known by name, names such as Hild and Penda and Eadfrith. Well, for the most part known by name, because Helena Hamerow, Professor of Early Medieval Archaeology and Head of the School of Archaeology at the University of Oxford, devotes her 15 minutes to the average Anglo-Saxon farmer, unnamed but not, as it turns out, unknowable. It’s a very entertaining romp through three hundred years or so of medieval agrarian history, worth listening to in its entirety, but the bit that struck me particularly starts at 5 mins in and is a brief mention that in the latter 7th century Anglo-Saxon farmers left behind subsistence and started to produce a surplus for the market. That made me wonder whether there has been any interaction between historians of that period and students of similar, more recent (and continuing), shifts in places like Africa. One might have thought that there could be interesting things that each might learn from the other. Especially since the 7th century Anglo-Saxon peasant didn’t have IFAD, the CGIAR and the Gates Foundation to help the transition along.

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