Pristina libertas: liberty and the Anglo-Saxons revisited
Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, Vol.14 (2004)
The association between liberty and the Anglo-Saxons has been rendered mythical by later retellings, both in the Middle Ages and afterwards. This later history notwithstanding, it is argued here that liberty occupied a significant place in the early English documentary record. Originally part of the cultural and linguistic inheritance from late antiquity, the notion of liberty was deployed by English churchmen in defence of monastic freedom from the eighth century onwards, creating an archival legacy which was rewritten and imitated in later centuries, becoming fixed in institutional memory as fiscal and legal freedoms bestowed on the populations of monasteries and towns by pre-Conquest kings.