The mead-hall community
By Stephen Pollington
Journal of Medieval History, Vol. 37:1 (2011)
Abstract: The paper provides background context to the Anglo-Saxon concept of the ‘mead-hall’, the role of conspicuous consumption in early medieval society and the use of commensality to strengthen horizontal and vertical social bonds. Taking as its primary starting point the evidence of the Old English verse tradition, supported by linguistic and archaeological evidence and contemporary comparative material, the paper draws together contemporaneous and modern insights into the nature of feasting as a social medium. The roles of the ‘lord’ and ‘lady’ as community leaders are examined, with particular regard to their position at the epicentre of radiating social relationships. Finally, the inverse importance of the mead-hall as a declining social institution and a developing literary construct is addressed.