‘The Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms and the Beginnings of the Old English State’
Barbara Yorke (Emeritus Professor University of Winchester)
in Der fruhmittelalterliche Staat, ed. W. Pohl and V. Wieser (Vienna 2008), 73-88
Measurements of medieval statehood against definitions of the modern ‘nationstate’ inevitably fail – even classical ‘states’ fail to measure up to such modern definitions. Earlier states have to be defined within their own terms. However, how to define what is meant by ‘state’ in an early medieval context? There are almost as many definitions as there are historians who have written on the topic. However, Walter Pohl has provided well-reasoned and clear guidelines as to what features can be said to have characterised early medieval ‘Staatlichkeit’, and these are taken as guide-lines for the following discussion of the example of Anglo-Saxon England. His criteria include such features as stability, centrality of royal power, centralised control of economic production, identity as a gens and regnum and a Christian vocabulary of community combined with that of the Roman imperial world.