chapter  4
54 Pages

The Land

T hough there are complications in detail, it is possible to give a gen­ eral outline o f the settlem ent o f England, and to some extent o f the external and internal trade patterns o f Anglo-Saxon England, an outline that can be traced with reasonable chronological firmness from the fifth century to the eleventh. So m uch cannot be said at the m om ent for the study o f agricultural developm ents, fundam en­ tal though they are for an understanding o f Anglo-Saxon society. Yet it seems evident that this is a side o f Anglo-Saxon studies most likely to yield im portant results, particularly as new archaeological techniques are developed, and as the picture becomes clearer o f the agricultural im plem ents generally in use in the Germ anic world. T here is o f course an appalling dearth o f written evidence: a few am biguous clauses in the laws o f Ine, a section o f Aelfric’s Colloquy dealing with the hardships o f a p loughm an’s life, a little treatise on eleventh-century estate-m anagem ent. O therwise reliance has to be placed on inferences draw n from material the prim ary purpose o f which lay not with the land and its cultivation, but with the legal or fiscal aspects o f the ow nership o f that land: land charters, legal dooms, the great Domesday Book itself. T h e vocabulary o f Anglo-Saxon England adds som ething o f value. T h ere is, for ex­ ample, a list o f agricultural im plem ents in use on a great estate in the docum ent known as ‘G erefa’, that deals with the duties o f a reeve. T he fact that a lord, a hlaford o r hlaf-weard, is literally a guardian o f bread while his lady, a hlaf-dige, is a kneader o f bread has possible social implications for very early times, before the weakening and obscuring o f the second elem ents -weard and -dige.