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Feud and the State in Late Anglo-Saxon England

Paul Hyams

The Journal of British Studies, Vol. 40, No. 1. (Jan., 2001), pp. 1-43

Every student of the Anglo-Saxons accepts the existence of feud as a feature of society before the Norman Conquest. Yet there has been no serious study of feud in over a century of intense scrutiny and debate on almost every other aspect of English culture in the period.’ Scholars have marginalized the subject; though a set topic of the books, feud seldom seems to affect the main currents of Anglo-Saxon history. Anglo-Saxon England, possessing the statelike characteristics now identified by scholars, emerges in modern accounts as a society very different from the ones where scholars have usually located, described, and analyzed feuds. Much current scholarship has lately depicted England during the century and a half separating Alfred “the Great” from the Norman Conquest as a highly centralized society, one more closely subject to royal leadership than other contemporary medieval societies. Such centralization was rarely attained in the later medieval period, with the exception of the often-lauded “Angevin Kingship” itself.

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