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For Yorkshire ‘the Scandinavian centuries were a defining period’

February 18, 2015

Stewart Arnold writes:

Matthew Townend, a Reader of English and Related Literature at York University, has just published a book ‘Viking Age Yorkshire’ which I can thoroughly recommend as a hugely useful addition to the growing literature on the history of Yorkshire. Worth a read!

I attended a lecture by Dr. Townend in the Mansion House, York yesterday as part of the city’s Jorvik Viking Festival which picked up several interesting extracts from his book and started to answer a few questions about Viking age Yorkshire.

It’s impossible to summarise everything, after all the book runs to over 300 pages, but a few things stood out to me.

Firstly, although the name’ Yorkshire’ is a slight anachronism when it comes to Viking Age history (‘Yorkshire’ is not mentioned until the 11th century), the area or political unit it designates is not.

Secondly, having been established as a Viking kingdom for around 200 years, ‘Yorkshire’ was conquered and settled by the Anglo-Saxons or the ‘English’ as they called themselves. Essentially, ‘Yorkshire’ was colonised by the English from around the mid 10th century. A process that continued to the period of the ‘Harrying’ over a hundred years later.

Thirdly, there is no evidence that the Vikings gathered in Jorvik for an assembly or  þing (thing). However, although now lost, Yorkshire ‘boasted at least one example’ of this: a site named Tingwala or Thingwala near Whitby, recorded in the 12th century but now lost. It is not beyond imagination therefore to think that a Viking parliament or þing for Yorkshire may well have existed.

Fourthly, Dr. Townend concludes ‘the Scandinavian centuries were a defining period, not only on account of the events and developments of the period itself, but also for the regional sense of self, and sense of difference, which the period consolidated and bequeathed.’

All in all a fascinating lecture.





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  1. Alex permalink

    What would you say would be the best individual way to secure devlution?

    • In the first instance, you won’t be surprised if we say, join the Yorkshire Devolution Movement 🙂 Whilst the argument has undoubtedly moved on since YDM was first founded, there is still plenty more to be done, not least in trying to make a shift away from the obsession with city regions, towards something more accountable, more substantial and less divisive.

      Secondly, as the General Election draws near, seek out those parties and individual candidates in your constituency which support a directly elected parliament for Yorkshire and give them your support. This blog will summarising the different parties stance on #yorkshiredevo once their manifestos are published so visitors will be able to decide for themselves. We also hope individual candidates from key constituencies will set out their views on devolution.

      Hope that helps.

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