The development of Kentish society from the Anglo-Saxon invasions to the Norman conquest
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Bede in 731 recorded the awareness that Kent 'was different from the rest of England, a difference that remained apparent for many centuries, medieval Kent was a land of hamlet settlements measured in sulungs, not of villages measured in hides. There was little or no common farming; each landholder acted independently. Land of a man dying intestate was disposed of by division among all his sons, and land was fully alienable. By the thirteenth century villeinage was rare and by the seventeenth century most farmers owned part of the land they occupied and rented the rest in freehold tenure for nominal sums. Yet Kent is not completely different from the rest of England; its settlement by hamlets and the inheritance system have especially close ties to Wales and Northumbria. It is difficult, furthermore, to trace the customs to their origin to know if they came from settlement by a German people different from those settling elsewhere, or from the survival of more Britons, or as a response to a set of conditions different from those encountered elsewhere, namely geography and the smallness of the kingdom to he ruled. This essay has a twofold purpose: first, to analyse the relations between Kent and her conquerors, to see what effects conquest had on social development; and second, to examine the elements of society and in particular the social classes and forms of landholding, to determine whether they can be traced back to racial or other origins. For the purpose of analysis, the history of Kent between the Anglo-Saxon invasions and the Norman Conquest will be divided into three sections: c.450-597, the pagan period; 597-025, the decline of Kent from the most powerful kingdom south of the Humber to a Mercian province; and 825-1066, the unification of England tinder Wessex, and the Danish raids.
Thesis, MLitt Master of Letters
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