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Vol 21 No 9 Sept/Oct 2016

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Wills and Will-making in Anglo-Saxon England

ISBN13: 9781903153376
Published: September 2011
Publisher: York Medieval Press
Country of Publication: UK
Format: Hardback
Price: £60.00

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A remarkable series of Anglo-Saxon wills have survived, spanning the period from the beginning of the ninth century to the years immediately following the Norman Conquest.

Written in Old English, they reflect the significance of the vernacular, not only in royal administration during this period, but in the recording of a range of individual transactions. They show wealthy laymen and women, and clerics, from kings and bishops to those of thegnly status, disposing of land and chattels, and recognising ties of kinship, friendship, lordship and service through their bequests; and whilst land is of prime importance, the mention in some wills of such valuable items as tableware, furnishings, clothing, jewellery and weapons provides an insight into lifestyle at the time.

Despite their importance, no study has hitherto been specifically devoted to Anglo-Saxon wills in their social and historical context, a gap which this book aims to fill. While the wills themselves can be vague and allusive, by establishing patterns of bequeathing, and by drawing on other resources, the author sheds light on the factors which influenced men and women in making appropriate provision for their property.

Legal History
1. Introduction
2. Anglo-Saxon written wills: the nature of the evidence
3. The process of will-making
4. Politics, power and the bequest of land
5. Lay bequest of land: pious gifts and family strategy
6. The bequest of movable wealth
7. Wills, commemoration and lay piety
8. Conclusion: Why make a written will in Anglo-Saxon England?
9. Appendix 1: The corpus of Anglo-Saxon wills
10. Appendix 2: The evidence for wills and will-making in the Liber Eliensis and Chronicon Rameseiensis
11. Appendix 3: The bequest of movable wealth
12. Appendix 4: Local churches mentioned in wills
13. Appendix 5: Note on unpublished material by Patrick Wormald
14. Bibliography.