I’m thrilled to host M J Porter on my blog today with her new book  Pagan Warrior and a fascinating guest post.

How do we know what we know about the seventh century?

There’s no way of truly knowing what transpired over 1400 years ago when the events on which I based the Gods and Kings trilogy, which begins with Pagan Warrior, took place. There are three main sources from this period which can be used. The first near-contemporary source available to the modern scholar is that of Bede in his The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, completed in c.731. The events that he recorded of the people and battles from 632/3 to 655 mean that even he is removed from the immediacy of what truly happened by up to a century. He was also a Northumbrian Christian monk writing about events before Saxon England was truly converted to Roman Christianity and trying to prove that only through God’s might could kings rule well.

The manuscript tradition of the surviving source material highlights another problem.  We don’t have the original manuscript, written in Bede’s hand, to know exactly what he wrote. Our earliest surviving manuscript, known as Tiberius Bede, and held by the British Library, dates to around 737, so after Bede’s death, which is said to have occurred in 735.

The manuscript can be viewed online here https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/bedes-ecclesiastical-history-of-the-english-people, and it is a beautiful manuscript.

While Bede’s work was copied copiously during the Saxon era, each of these editions was an opportunity to edit or add or purposefully omit as the scribes went along. Historians have spent much time trying to devise the manuscript traditions that link one surviving text to another.

This problem isn’t restricted to Bede, but applies to all the source material written about the events of the seventh century. Not just Bede but also the Historia Brittonum, once assigned to Nennius. This provides information about the seventh century but is a later source, dated to the ninth century and only surviving in eleventh-century copies. It’s believed to be a British, or rather Welsh, account of events. It’s particularly well-known as a basis for much of the later Arthurian legend.

One of the versions, the earliest one that survives, can be viewed here https://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/FullDisplay.aspx?ref=Harley_MS_3859

Our third near-contemporary source, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, was devised at the court of King Alfred of Wessex at some point before c.890. It, too, has a rich and varied manuscript tradition and survives in nine recensions, the earliest of which dates to the early eleventh century.

It can be viewed online via The Parker Library on the Web, https://parker.stanford.edu/parker/catalog/wp146tq7625

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle has a particularly complex history. It was first written utilising the words of Bede and possibly other, now lost, sources. It was also written even more distanced in time than Bede, and it has certainly been subject to additions and omissions throughout its history. For many years, attempts were made to incorporate all of the different recensions to provide a ‘rounded history’ of the period. However, the intricacies of the individual recensions are now appreciated, and instead, modern editors look for the reasons for these omissions and additions.

These various sources, written in Latin, or Old English, have been the subject of many studies, and of course, modern editions are available to read in English. But again, this is just another means by which the modern scholar is distanced from the intent and meaning of the original words. The modern scholar is far removed from the words devised by the religious men (but possibly also the religious women) who first put quill to vellum to offer a record of times before they lived.

Those writing of the period need to be aware of these limitations and restrictions, while an audience needs to appreciate that there are almost no definites. In many ways, our history of the period is entirely skewed by what others thought. It’s a sobering realisation.

From bestselling author, MJ Porter comes the tale of the mighty pagan king, Penda of Mercia.

Britain. AD 632.

Penda, a warrior of immense renown, has much to prove if he is to rule the Mercian kingdom of his dead father and prevent the neighbouring king of Northumbria from claiming it. Unexpectedly allying with the British kings, Penda races to battle the alliance of the Northumbrian king, unsure if his brother stands with him or against him as they seek battle glory for themselves, and the right to rule gained through bloody conquest. There will be a victor and a bloody loser, and a king will rise from the ashes of the great and terrible battle of Hædfeld.

Audiobook narrated by Matt Coles

BUY HERE :books2read.com/PaganWarrior


Image The Tiberius Bede – Tiberius Bede, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

#Audiobook narrated by Matt Coles


MJ Porter is the author of many historical novels set predominantly in Seventh to Eleventh-Century England, as well as three twentieth-century mysteries. Being raised in the shadow of a building that was believed to house the bones of long-dead Kings of Mercia, meant that the author’s writing destiny was set.

Get in touch via M J’s Social Media Links:

Website: www.mjporterauthor.blog Twitter: https://twitter.com/coloursofunison Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mjporterauthor

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