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British Christian continuity in Anglo-Saxon England: the case of Sherborne/Lanprobi

British Christian continuity in Anglo-Saxon England: the case of Sherborne/Lanprobi

By Martin Grimmer

Journal of the Australian Early Medieval Association, Vol. 1 (2005)

Abstract: A feature of recent work on early Anglo-Saxon England has been an emerging consensus that a substantial British population was subsumed under and persisted within Anglo-Saxon territorial boundaries as they expanded to the west and north. In such circumstances, it has been argued, British identity and culture continued within the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. If there was a substantial British substrate, some evidence of their continued presence and influence should certainly be expected. The concept of continuity, however, is one fraught with problems concerning both its meaning and the evidence that would be necessary to establish such an eventuality. This is particularly the case in the ecclesiastical domain, where it is currently popular to assert that the Anglo-Saxon border kingdoms – Wessex, Mercia and Northumbria – were exposed to a considerable degree of British ecclesiastical influence prior to the arrival of Roman and Irish/Columban missionaries. The aim of this paper is to explore some of the difficulties associated with the term ‘continuity’ by examining the case of Sherborne, an early West Saxon monastery in Dorset, and the claim that it originated as a British community called Lanprobi.

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