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THE UNDERSTANDING OF DEATH IN ENGLAND 800-1100

V. M. Whitworth

The subject of this discussion is death, and how people in England responded to it,in texts, images, rituals and burial practice, between circa 850 and circa 1100. In its broadapproach, it analyses the understanding of the dying and dead body and the ways in whichit was socially and culturally constructed. It also considers the different means by whichthis society tried to make imaginative sense of death. These are topics which have seen asurge of interest in recent years from historians, sociologists and anthropologists.However, despite this trend, and despite the rich corpus of surviving material, the earlymedieval period and Anglo-Saxon England in particular have remained largely unexplored.This is true even for recent works which might have been expected to cover these topics.The current study is an attempt to fill part of this gap. It uses data from historical, art-historical, literary and archaeological sources, on the grounds that an attempt to reconstructcultural ways of thinking permits — in fact it demands — that as wide as possible a rangeof different kinds of evidence be considered.

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