Mutually Assured Construction: Æthelflæd’s burhs, Landscapes of Defence and the Physical Legacy of the Unification of England, 899-1016
Stone, David John Fiander
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This thesis examines the physical legacy left by the unification of the Kingdom of England during the tenth century, and seeks to redress the way in which the Kingdom of Mercia is often overlooked or discounted in the traditional historical narrative. It principally examines the means by which Æthelflæd of Mercia extended political and military control over the West Midlands, both in terms of physical infrastructure and through ‘soft’ power in terms of economic control and material culture. It uses landscape archaeology, artefactual and textual evidence to compare Mercia with its ally, Wessex, and assess the different means by which Æthelflæd of Mercia and her brother Edward the Elder were able to consolidate and expand their territory, the physical infrastructure they established in order to defend it, and the ways in which these sites developed in response to the changing political, military and economic climates of the later tenth century. It will assess why some defensive sites developed into proto-urban settlements while others disappeared, and the extent to which this was a conscious or planned process. This thesis seeks to overturn the idea that burhs constructed in Mercia were insignificant or unplanned ‘emergency’ sites and instead were part of a sophisticated network of landscapes of defence, reflecting a significant level of manpower and logistical investment on the part of the Mercian state. It will furthermore seek to explore the ways in which the Mercian state supported such a network, how sites were chosen, constructed, maintained and garrisoned, and the impact these sites had both on the local population, in terms of patterns of settlement and material culture, and on the wider political scale.
PhD in Archaeology