adapted from a design by George Bain based on the Book of Kells home Programme Bookings Shop The Wuffings .
Wuffing Education

The Mercian Supremacy of Eastern England: Conquest and Community

A penny of King Offa, c.792, minted by Lul and showing the same wolf-and-twins image used by Lul for a series minted before c.792 for the East Anglian king and martyr Æthelbert (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge)

with Dr Morn Capper

in The Old Court, Sutton Hoo (map)
on Saturday, April 9th, 2011

An investigation of the place of conquered kingdoms, including East Anglia, in the rise and expansion of Mercia, the most powerful of the pre-Viking kingdoms. Through documents, coins and sculpture we will explore how kings like Penda and Offa used the tools of sanctity, dynasty, trade and diplomacy in an attempt to bind a kingdom founded on warfare.

Provisional Programme
  10.00 Coffee on arrival  
  10.15 The rise of the warlords: conquest, plunder and tribute. We begin by introducing the fearsome Mercian reputation in the seventh century, looking at sources from Bede to the Staffordshire hoard, at a time when five East Anglian kings were killed in 30 years of confrontation. It will explore the motives behind warfare and ask how desperate regional kings responded to the rise of the pagan warrior King Penda and his sons, showing how even the church could be a tool of conquest.  
  11.15 Coffee  
  11.45 Power and dynasty. We explore how eighth century Mercian kings Aethelbald and Offa attempted to forge their newly formed community into a kingdom. The brutal realities of warfare and political murder were given a veneer of civility through the development of trade and sanctity, yet many of these ideas were not Mercian in origin, but adapted from conquered kingdoms such as East Anglia, Northumbria, Kent and Essex. We will look at negotiations with the Emperor Charlemagne as well as the recently discovered ‘Lichfield Angel’- evidence for the making of a new but short-lived archbishopric to guide the kingdom - assessing the lengths to which kings would go to secure their legacies.  
  12.45 Lunch break  
  14:00 East Anglia as a Mercian province. In the face of minimal written evidence, my recent research has shown that we can still uncover the Mercian occupation by combining written, archaeological, and coinage evidence. I argue that the Mercian occupation in East Anglia was a two-way relationship. This will include a look at the evidence for the political takeover of the East Anglian fens around the Wash, Sutton Hoo’s own execution cemetery, and the trade and coinage of East Anglian kings.  
  15:00 Tea break  
  15:15 Catastrophe and renewal. This final section will evaluate the causes of a startling collapse of Mercian power from total dominance south of the Humber in a few brief years after 825. As East Anglia threw off Mercian domination and Mercia faced West Saxon conquest by 829 how far had the Mercian empire been sustained by consensus and how far by violence and intimidation? This will provide a platform for introducing the Mercian legacy in the later formation of an English nation.  
  16:15 Close  

About Dr Morn Capper

Dr Morn Capper enjoys combining teaching and research in Medieval and Anglo-Saxon Studies with encouraging public access and engagement with the past. For the last two years she has matched university teaching roles at Sheffield and Nottingham with a public facing role as part of the Learning team at Weston Park Museum, Sheffield - location of the famous Benty Grange helmet. In 2008 she completed her PhD research investigating regionalism within the Mercian Supremacy through the use of written, archaeological and coinage evidence, investigating how regional kingdoms attempted to negotiate first Mercian and then Viking conquests in the 7-10th centuries. She is interested in adding value and scope to research by networking between researchers and linking collections through museums, local amateur enthusiasts and the academic sphere.

Some suggestions for further reading
(useful but not essential)

Blair, J., The Church in Anglo-Saxon Society (Oxford 2005).
Brown, M. & C.Farr (eds), Mercia, An Anglo-Saxon Kingdom in Europe (London 2001).
Carver, M. O. H., Sutton Hoo, Burial Ground of Kings? (London 1998).
Campbell, ed. The Anglo-Saxons (London 1982).
Fleming, R. Britain after Rome: The Fall and Rise, 400-1070 (London 2010)
Kirby, D.P., The Earliest English Kings (London 1991).
Lapidge, M., Blair, J., Keynes, S., Scragg, D. (eds), The Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Anglo-Saxon England (Oxford 1999).
McClure, J. & R.Collins (eds), Bede: the Ecclesiastical History of the English People (Oxford 1999).
Pestell, T., Landscapes of Monastic Foundation: The Establishment of Religious Houses in East Anglia, c.650–1200, Anglo-Saxon Studies 5 (Woodbridge 2004).
Reynolds, A. J., Later Anglo-Saxon England (Stroud 1999).
Stenton, F. M., Anglo-Saxon England (Oxford 1943; 3rd edn, 1971), esp. pp. 206-12.
Story, J., Carolingian Connections: England and Francia c.750-850 (Aldershot 2003).
Swanton, M., The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (Dent 1996; Phoenix 2000).
Webster, L., & J.Backhouse, The Making of England: Anglo-Saxon Art and Culture AD 600-900 (London 1991).


Please phone or email to check the availability of places.  Study Days are £38 per person, which includes a full day of lectures, access to the NT site, parking, coffee and tea throughout the day, and access to the NT exhibition.  Once you have reserved your place please send a cheque to confirm the booking. For your first booking please complete the application form to ensure that we have recorded your contact details correctly.

Wuffing Education,
4 Hilly Fields,
Woodbridge, Suffolk IP12 4DX
(tel : 01394 386498)

Email cliff AT
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