The British History Podcast
Summary: iTunes is restricting our list to 300 episodes for some reason. To access all episodes, click subscribe. The BHP is a chronological retelling of the history of Britain with a particular focus upon the lives of the people. You won't find a dry recounting of dates and battles here, but instead you'll learn about who these people were and how their desires, fears, and flaws shaped the histories of England, Scotland, and Wales. Support the Show
The King is dead, long live the King. So … last episode was a bit of a shocker wasn’t it?
History is known as a field for being a bit of a slog. Tracing events, and people, and social movements through decades and centuries is a huge task and the results are usually dense at the best of times. But once in a while, in between all the battles and the politics and the dynasties, the record cradles a story so short, and sweet, and perfect that it deserves to stand alone. And this very special BHP Valentine’s Day episode is just this sort of story.
Northumbria was always the hot mess of the heptarchy. There are a few exceptions where they manage to pull it together long enough to produce something important, like Bede, or when Leeds United won the premiership in 1991. But generally, it’s a bit of a shitshow. Sort of like Leeds United.
We can probably assume that Harald Fairhair, the King of Norway, had fantastic hair. It was either big, or really long, or super glossy, and it was almost definitely blonde. But it wasn’t the only trait he was known for. Harald Fairhair was also known for getting around… and around… and around. According to records, he had as many as 20 sons. Twenty!
Ok, where were we? With all this focus on culture, it’s been a little bit since we last talked about the political situation in Britain. So lets remind ourselves of where things were politically.
This isn’t going to end well.
Today, we’re going to wrap up this cultural series with a focus on my favorite group of people. The people who rarely, if ever, get talked about. The commoners.
PSA: Where Are the Episodes?
When we left off, we were talking about Thegns. Specifically, we were talking about King’s Thegns and how they could wield degrees of power that could rival even the formidable Ealdormen. At this point in this short series, the hope is that you have a sense of what incentives the economic structure created, the way that power flowed in this era, and what these titles meant in action. Support the Show
Ealdormen… Thegns… Ceorls. These were the important cogs in the machine of government. They had powerful roles, and held powerful spaces within anglo saxon culture. And it’s time we get to know these roles like the back of our hand. Support the Show
Links to material referenced in the show. * The Achavanich Beaker Burial* ‘Ava’: a Beaker-associated woman from a cist at Achavanich, Highland, and the story of her (re-)discovery and subsequent study, Published in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland* The Beaker phenomenon and the genomic transformation of northwest Europe at Nature.com* A summary of the Nature.com article* Scotland’s Rock Art Project
Long ago there was a settlement that had been occupied and farmed by the British and the Anglo Saxons for centuries. In fact, by the time that the Scandinavians arrived on the island, this village known as Wharram Percy was already well established, and had been inhabited continually for centuries. And it held strong for centuries more, even though it was located perilously close to the Scandinavian stronghold of Jorvik, and even after the arrival of the Great Heathen Army. In fact, this little village could well have been part of the very same lands that were shared out by Halfdan himself. Wharram Percy survived it all. Support the Show
We have spoken a lot about the life of a handful of individuals – namely the rulers that have descended from the line of Alfred. There are a couple of reasons for that. The first is the simple fact that by virtue of how limited literacy was during this era, these are the lives we know the most about. The other reason is that the formation of England is very much a story of politics. It was battles, and treaties, and allegiances. Support the Show
I love Halloween. I think it might be my favorite holiday, and it’s not really because I like spooky things. I actually kind of hate horror movies. The reason I love Halloween is because in the pantheon of modern holidays it stands out. Most holidays in the western world have been rebranded and repackaged to fit a christian theme or a specific nation. It’s traditional to go to church on Christmas and Easter, even if bunnies and fat men in red suits don’t get mentioned even once in the bible. But Halloween is different. There’s no awkward attempt to justify its existence. Halloween is an out of the closet pagan holiday, and it /feels/ pagan. It feels old. And that’s because it is. And I love that. Support the Show
It begins in France. The struggle for power between King Louis IV and Hugh the Great had been raging for quite some time… When we last visited the continent, , Hugh the Great, King Otto of Germany, Duke William of Normandy, Count Herbert II, and various other supporting characters were allied against King Louis IV, the Archbishop of Rheims, and Count Arnulf of Flanders. In response, King AEthelstan tried to intervene by sending a fleet to support the embattled king… Suddenly King AEthelstan died, and rather than supporting the young French King, the English fleet instead opted to raid the French coast. Support the Show