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Anderson - 1999 - Formation and Resolution of Ideological Contrast in the Early History of Scandinavia

Anderson - 1999 - Formation and Resolution of Ideological Contrast in the Early History of Scandinavia

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Published by Carlaz
Some recent studies concerning early medieval Europe have suggested that Scandinavia and Francia represented two ideological poles with which other populations within the Germanic world might have intended to align themselves. While such a view sometimes may be useful, it may also over-simplify a more complex situation. Scandinavians must have recognised cultural distinctions between themselves and Christian Europeans, but may not have viewed these distinctions necessarily as emblems of opposition unless faced by a direct political or military threat. Indeed, ideological contrasts concerning the way society was structured and power was wielded may have cut across apparent ethnic boundaries. Roman influences on early Germanic society may have assisted in the creation of a 'Germanic identity. Roman pressure also may have affected the development of Germanic governmental structures, encouraging king-centred governmental ideologies that contrasted with possibly older, assembly-centred systems. Scandinavia, never threatened by Roman domination, may have retained assembly-centred structures longer than other Germanic societies. Southern Scandinavia's 'central places' of the Early Germanic Iron Age, such as Gudme, may have had functions comparable with those of the later Old Saxon Assembly and Icelandic Al ingi. Such sites may have provided a focus for an emergent Scandinavian identity. This assembly-centred system may have been disrupted as chieftains struggled to attain the kind of power enjoyed by their counterparts in king-centred societies (much as happened in medieval Iceland), perhaps explaining the poverty of archaeological finds in the region from the Late Germanic Iron Age. The growing Frankish threat to Scandinavia in the eighth century may have both spurred further consolidation of power in the hands of the Žlite and, initially, provoked an ideological reaction against Christian Europe. Yet while wary of domination by Christian European kingdoms, the Viking-Age Scandinavian Žlite may have envied their powerful model of lordship and had an interest in accessing elements of their culture. Such a situation may be reflected in historical legends, particularly the Scylding-Skj›ldung cycle, which perhaps developed during the Viking Age. These legends might represent not source material for historical glimpses of early northern Europe (as is often assumed) but rather Scandinavian attempts at self-definition in relation to the burgeoning and powerful cultures of Christian Europe. Scandinavia's eventual adoption of Christianity and Christian lordship in the course of the Viking Age largely resolved the ideological contrasts that had existed both within Scandinavian society and between Scandinavia and Christian Europe.
Some recent studies concerning early medieval Europe have suggested that Scandinavia and Francia represented two ideological poles with which other populations within the Germanic world might have intended to align themselves. While such a view sometimes may be useful, it may also over-simplify a more complex situation. Scandinavians must have recognised cultural distinctions between themselves and Christian Europeans, but may not have viewed these distinctions necessarily as emblems of opposition unless faced by a direct political or military threat. Indeed, ideological contrasts concerning the way society was structured and power was wielded may have cut across apparent ethnic boundaries. Roman influences on early Germanic society may have assisted in the creation of a 'Germanic identity. Roman pressure also may have affected the development of Germanic governmental structures, encouraging king-centred governmental ideologies that contrasted with possibly older, assembly-centred systems. Scandinavia, never threatened by Roman domination, may have retained assembly-centred structures longer than other Germanic societies. Southern Scandinavia's 'central places' of the Early Germanic Iron Age, such as Gudme, may have had functions comparable with those of the later Old Saxon Assembly and Icelandic Al ingi. Such sites may have provided a focus for an emergent Scandinavian identity. This assembly-centred system may have been disrupted as chieftains struggled to attain the kind of power enjoyed by their counterparts in king-centred societies (much as happened in medieval Iceland), perhaps explaining the poverty of archaeological finds in the region from the Late Germanic Iron Age. The growing Frankish threat to Scandinavia in the eighth century may have both spurred further consolidation of power in the hands of the Žlite and, initially, provoked an ideological reaction against Christian Europe. Yet while wary of domination by Christian European kingdoms, the Viking-Age Scandinavian Žlite may have envied their powerful model of lordship and had an interest in accessing elements of their culture. Such a situation may be reflected in historical legends, particularly the Scylding-Skj›ldung cycle, which perhaps developed during the Viking Age. These legends might represent not source material for historical glimpses of early northern Europe (as is often assumed) but rather Scandinavian attempts at self-definition in relation to the burgeoning and powerful cultures of Christian Europe. Scandinavia's eventual adoption of Christianity and Christian lordship in the course of the Viking Age largely resolved the ideological contrasts that had existed both within Scandinavian society and between Scandinavia and Christian Europe.

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Published by: Carlaz on Apr 16, 2012
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University of CambridgeFaculty of EnglishDepartment of Anglo-Saxon, Norse, & Celtic
F
ORMATION AND
ESOLUTION
 
OF
I
DEOLOGICAL
C
ONTRAST IN
 
THE
E
ARLY
H
ISTORY OF
S
CANDINAVIA
 
Carl Edlund Anderson
St John’s CollegeA Dissertationsubmitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy1999
 
 This dissertation is the result of my own work and includes nothing which is the outcomeof work done in collaboration.I would, however, like to thank some of the many people around the world who havegone out of their way to provide support and encouragement. At the Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse, & Celtic in Cambridge, my faculty supervisor Paul Bibire; alsoAndy Orchard and Martin Syrett. Thanks to Anneli Sundkvist, Svante Norr, and StefanBrink at Uppsala’s Institution för arkeologi och antik historia, where I was warmlywelcomed. Likewise, at the Institut for Folkloristik in København, thanks to MichaelChesnutt and especially Lars Hemmingsen for generous support. Thanks also toCatherine Hills, Morten Axboe, Märit Gaimster, Alison Finlay, Paul Acker, BarbaraCrawford, Simon Taylor, Joe Harris, and Steve Mitchell. Lastly, I am deeply grateful tomy family for their unflagging support.
Note about this electronic version
: The original version of this dissertation was prepared in 1999 using a non-Unicode compliant font. To faciliate automated searching,the text of this electronic version has been made Unicode-compliant throughout.However, as an aid to the user, pagination and content remains consistent with theoriginal printed copy archived in Cambridge University Library.
 
S
UMMARY
 
Some recent studies concerning early medieval Europe have suggested that Scandinaviaand Francia represented two ideological poles with which other populations within theGermanic world might have intended to align themselves. While such a view sometimesmay be useful, it may also over-simplify a more complex situation. Scandinavians musthave recognised cultural distinctions between themselves and Christian Europeans, butmay not have viewed these distinctions necessarily as emblems of opposition unlessfaced by a direct political or military threat. Indeed, ideological contrasts concerning theway society was structured and power was wielded may have cut across apparent ethnic boundaries.Roman influences on early Germanic society may have assisted in the creation of a ‘Germanic’ identity. Roman pressure also may have affected the development of Germanic governmental structures, encouraging king-centred governmental ideologiesthat contrasted with possibly older, assembly-centred systems. Scandinavia, never threatened by Roman domination, may have retained assembly-centred structures longer than other Germanic societies. Southern Scandinavia’s ‘central places’ of the EarlyGermanic Iron Age, such as Gudme, may have had functions comparable with those of the later Old Saxon Assembly and Icelandic Al
 þ
ingi. Such sites may have provided afocus for an emergent Scandinavian identity. This assembly-centred system may have been disrupted as chieftains struggled to attain the kind of power enjoyed by their counterparts in king-centred societies (much as happened in medieval Iceland), perhapsexplaining the poverty of archaeological finds in the region from the Late Germanic IronAge.The growing Frankish threat to Scandinavia in the eighth century may have bothspurred further consolidation of power in the hands of the élite and, initially, provoked anideological reaction against Christian Europe. Yet while wary of domination by ChristianEuropean kingdoms, the Viking-Age Scandinavian élite may have envied their powerfulmodel of lordship and had an interest in accessing elements of their culture. Such asituation may be reflected in historical legends, particularly the Scylding-Skj
ǫ
ldungcycle, which perhaps developed during the Viking Age. These legends might representnot source material for historical glimpses of early northern Europe (as is often assumed) but rather Scandinavian attempts at self-definition in relation to the burgeoning and powerful cultures of Christian Europe. Scandinavia’s eventual adoption of Christianityand Christian lordship in the course of the Viking Age largely resolved the ideologicalcontrasts that had existed both within Scandinavian society and between Scandinavia andChristian Europe.

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