Edgar: King of the English, 959-975, ed. Donald Scragg

Edgar: King of the English, 959-975, ed. Donald Scragg

Edgar was King of the English from 959-975, ruling in the last period of peace before the Vikings and then Normans conquered England. He was the father of Edward the Martyr and Ethelred the Unready, the first a short-lived king who was murdered, the second notorious for allowing the Vikings to regain power. Edgar was also a supporter of the Benedictine order (restoring monasteries and expelling secular priests where they had taken over minsters), and thus got a generally good press in the chronicles. However the events of his reign are very poorly documented. These collected essays attempt to examine what evidence is available to produce a more accurate record of his reign.

These articles give a clear insight into how difficult Anglo-Saxon history can be, with authors having to try and recreate an entire society from witness lists to charters, an handful of surviving coins and vague references in chronicles and saint's lives. It is amazing what can be reconstructed from these sources. The witness lists help trace political careers, the rise and fall of factions, and even cast some light on Edgar's obscure period as King of Mercia while his older brother was king of England. Coinage does the same. Edgar doesn't appear to have minted coins in his own name in Mercia, helping to prove that his brother remained some powers.

One can see why monastic reform wasn't always popular - it often involved expelling people from their homes to give the monks their nice snug enclosures, and it saw some clergy go from being part of society to being deliberately aloof and isolated.

The editors of this work have made two decisions that I entirely support. First, every Old England and Latin text is provided in its original form and in translation, widely increasing the usefulness of the book. Secondly, they have used page footnotes, so the note is always right by the text it is linked, and not buried in a mass of endnotes. This is especially important in those chapters where the translations are in the notes.

This is am academic history, aimed at those with a serious interest in Anglo-Saxon history. It will be of great value for them, casing light on this otherwise obscure reign.

Part I: Documentary Evidence
1 - Edgar, rex admirabilis, Simon Keynes
2 - A Conspectus of the Charters of King Edgar, 957-975, Simon Keynes

Part II: Edgar before 959
3 - Eadwig and Edgar: Politics, Propaganda, Faction, Shashi Jayakumar
4 - Edgar, Chester and the Kingdom of the Mercians, 957-9, C. P. Lewis
5 - Edgar's Path to the Throne, Frederick M. Biggs

Part III: Edgar, 959-975
6 - The Women in Edgar's Life, Barbara Yorke
7 - Edgar, Albion and Insular Dominion, Julia Crick
8 - King Edgar and the Men of the Danelaw, Lesley Abrams
9 - The Pre-Reform Coinage of Edgar, Hugh Pagan

Part IV: Edgar and the Monastic Revival
10 - The Chronology of the Benedictine 'Reform', Julia Barrow
11 - The Frontispiece to the new Minister Charter and the King's Two Bodies, Catherine E. Karkov
12 - The Laity and the Monastic Reform in the Reign of Edgar, Alexander R. Rumble
13 - The Edgar Panegyrics in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Mercades Salvador-Bello

Editor: Donald Scragg
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 294
Publisher: Boydell
Year: 2014 edition of 2008 original

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