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‘Hooped Within the Great Wheel of Necessity’: The Interrelation of War and Peace in Anglo-Saxon Political Thought

Emma Brown

When I approach the history section in any bookshop I am perpetually startled by thedisturbingly large number of volumes on military warfare in comparison to anything else. Is our history so scarred by continuous warfare that every other aspect of ancestors’ lives is deemedsubsidiary? I’m of the opinion that whilst warfare has been an ongoing occupation of many historic peoples, it has by no means been their only occupation, nor their characterising feature. Instead, wemight accuse the modern day reader with a bloodthirsty appetite of skewing the publishable abilityof historical research, and the historian past and present of labouring over a romanticism of nationalidentity and violence.

With this in mind, I intend to look again at the sources surrounding Anglo-Saxon society, a culture whose subtlety is often obscured by excessive attention to barbaric violenceand glorified epic war poems.

 Whilst it is undeniable that violence and its glorification existed inAnglo-Saxon society, its relation to peace and the complexity of its place in Anglo-Saxon culturehave only recently begun to draw the attention of the historian.

Peace, I will argue, is essential to adiscussion of war in Anglo-Saxon political thought and deserves just as much attention as the studyof warfare.

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