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Monk Search 2012

June 20, 2012

Oh yeah, I’m alive. Yay! Frivolity aside, I have two announcements which will provoke more frivolity.  First, I am about to embark on my senior year of college. Yep. Yeps. And at my honored institution everyone–and I mean everyone despite their major–writes a senior thesis.  I designed my own major, lovingly and long-windedly called Creative Writing with Emphasis on Medieval & Renaissance History, and for my major I have to write a novel. A novella would be acceptable too.  But anyway, I’ve tripped and fallen into the monks/Portraits being a thesis topic, possibly/very likely becoming a murder plot against King Alfred the Great’s life.  Just to keep this blog alive, I’ll probably do a bit of live-blogging about my thesis.

No time like the present. In preparation for my thesis, or rather for writing any historical fiction, you’ve got to do research.  I took a class in England about the Anglo-Saxon period of their country and I feel it’s a time period most Americans (and possibly most people outside of Britain and even then quite a few Brits) don’t know about. Evidence for this is the fruits of my preliminary research materials search.  I’ve checked my two favorite local libraries for preliminary research materials. The Camarillo Library, which is gorgeous and I actually volunteer at, has one biography of King Alfred and several young adult novels set in the Anglo-Saxon period. That is it. In comparison, there are 251 on the following medieval period.  The Thousand Oaks library has more books, but again, most of them devote a chapter or less to the Saxons, preferring the High Medieval Period of the Normans (ie post-1066’s Battle of Hastings).  So…yeah. Nerd Problem #50: having no books in the local library on the obscure period of history you’re interested in.

But I got my own book. It’s the basic text I used in my class. It’s FM Stenton’s Anglo-Saxon England. It was published in 1948, it covers the whole period in great detail, has sections about daily life, and IT’S SO PURDY AND I LOVE IT.  I spent a portion of day re-reading the chapter on Alfred and sticking sticky notes everyplace. Aaaannnddd then I hit a roadblock.

So “Portraits” is based about two sentences in Stenton’s books that describes how Alfred started England being more connected to other countries again, involving other travelers coming to him and bringing news. And the monks were mentioned and I thought it was hilarious and made a short story about it. And those two sentences which I swear exist are not in the Kind Alfred chapter. So somewhere in that 900 page book are two sentences which I need so I can find more primary sources on the monks and their story.  *rolls up her metaphorical sleeves*

And while I’m here talking about obscurity, I should probably explain.  Okay so, WAY BACK IN THE DAY, like 500s, Romans had superficial control of most of Britain. By superficial, I mean that the upper classes where Roman, but the majority of the population were the Britons, Angles, Picts, Celts, and other awesome peoples who didn’t conveniently leave Roseta Stones so us moderns could better understand their monuments.  And when Rome decided Britain was a dark backwater not worth the effort of governing when your empire starting to crumble, they literally picked up and left.  For context, the legends have King Arthur being one of these original Britons existing after the Romans left; in fact, fighting off the Saxons from Saxony aka what is today Germany.  Anyway, the Saxons eventually do rule and settle what is today England, King Alfred being the first recognized ‘king’ over all the free peoples of England (ruling 871-899). During his reign, the Vikings are constantly raid, pillaging, and demanding tributes in exchange for safety. Alfred also successfully gets the Vikings off their back for awhile, a feat practically unheard of at the time.  Almost literally, the ninth century can be subtitled the Age in Which the Vikings Make a Nuisance of Themselves and Everyone else Screams at Them to Get Your Own Damn Country.

That’s all on that. If you have any questions, suggestions, or anything really, put it down in comments.

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From → Thesis

2 Comments
  1. Funsies! I have that textbook/Smithsonian guide to Vikings or whatever. Do you want me to bring that? If so, take it off my hands!! 🙂

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