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settlement continuity

  The maintenance of (typically rural) settlement sites, settlement systems and territorial structures across a period of major societal transformation (cf. sequent occupance). In Great Britain, a fundamental question of continuity arises over the fabric of rural settlement during the collapse of the Roman occupation and the beginnings of Anglo-Saxon colonization (c.  AD 400-1110). The two extremes were posed by Finberg as \'Continuity or cataclysm?\' (1964) and \'Revolution or evolution?\' (1972). Within British historical geography, these two poles are conventionally represented by: Darby, who once wrote that \'As far as there ever is a new beginning in history, the coming of the Angles, Saxons and Jutes was such a beginning\' (Darby, 1964) and that, even though \'the Anglo-Saxons did not come into an empty land, and … many contributions from pre-Saxon days have entered into the making of England\', nevertheless \'with the coming of the Anglo-Saxons, a new chapter in the history of settlement and land utilisation was begun\' (Darby, 1973); and Jones, for whom \'the roots of the Saxon settlements were planted while Britain was still part of the Roman Empire\' (Jones, 1978). Jones proposed a multiple estate model to summarize his thesis. Multiple estates were groups of townships whose tenants \'were subject to the jurisdiction of the territorial lord and [who], in return for their lands, paid rents in cash or kind and performed various services on his behalf\' (see feudalism). \'A network of obligations linked even the most distant settlements on each estate to the lord\'s\' (Finberg, 1972). Multiple estates have been identified in Northumbria, Wales and south-east England and, so Jones claims, have a common pre-Saxon origin. He also argues that \'the multiple structure of these ancient estates appears to have conditioned the evolution of the constituent settlements\', with some growing into villages or even market towns and the multiple structures breaking up or being re-sorted. Jones (1976) concludes that:

to arrive at an adequate understanding of the colonization of England it is essential to look beyond unitary settlements. Rather it is necessary to adopt as a model the multiple estate: for this provides the most meaningful of all frameworks for unravelling the complex interrelationships between society, economy and habitat involved in the process of colonization.Whatever the rights and wrongs of Jones\'s specific thesis (see Gregson, 1985, for a commentary and Jones\'s response), most scholars would endorse his emphasis on the complexity of the situation — Roberts (1979) declares that the answer to Finberg\'s questions (above) \'is to be found, not only between the two extremes, but varying spatially across the complex and intricate landscape varieties within these small islands — and would probably, on balance, favour continuity rather than cataclysm (Fowler, 1976). For, as Jones (1978) notes, \'the chief sufferers from the Saxon conquest … were British kings and nobles\'. As Taylor (1983) puts the matter:

the Saxons came not to a new and relatively untouched country but to a very old one, a country where most of the \'best\' places had already been occupied not once but many times … All this activity took place within clearly marked territories or estates, often grouped together under the control of large landowners.When the Roman Empire began to collapse, all that happened was that the protection of the Imperial army was removed and the sophisticated central government system was taken away. But the great mass of the population stayed on, as they had to, in their homes and on their land, to face up to what were to be increasingly difficult times both socially and economically. (DG)

References Darby, H.C. 1964: Historical geography: from the coming of the Anglo-Saxons to the Industrial Revolution. In J. Wreford Watson, ed., The British Isles: a systematic geography. London: Nelson, 198-220. Darby, H.C. 1973: The Anglo-Scandinavian foundations. In H.C. Darby, ed., A new historical geography of England. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1-38. Finberg, H.P.R. 1964: Continuity or cataclysm? In H.P.R. Finberg, ed., Lucerna: studies of some problems in the early history of England. London, 1-20. Finberg, H.P.R. 1972: Revolution or evolution? In H.P.R. Finberg, ed., The agrarian history of England and Wales, volumes I and II. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 385-401. Fowler, P.J. 1976: Agriculture and rural settlement. In D.M. Wilson, ed., The archaeology of Anglo-Saxon England. London: Methuen, 23-48. Gregson, N. 1985: The multiple estate model: some critical questions. Journal of Historical Geography 11: 339-51. Jones, G.R.J. 1972: The multiple estate as a model framework for tracing early stages in the evolution of rural settlements. In F. Dussart, ed., L\'habitat et les paysages ruraux d\'Europe. Liege: University of Liege, 255-62. Jones, G.R.J. 1976: Multiple estates and early settlement. In P.H. Sawyer, ed., Medieval settlement: continuity and change. London: Edward Arnold, 15-40. Jones, G.R.J. 1978: Celts, Saxons and Scandinavians. In R.A. Dodgshon and R.A. Butlin, eds, An historical geography of England and Wales. London: Academic Press, 57-79. Jones, G.R.J. 1985: Multiple estates perceived. Journal of Historical Geography 11: 352-63. Roberts, B.K. 1979: Rural settlement in Britain. London: Hutchinson. Taylor, C. 1983: Village and farmstead: a history of rural settlement in England. London: George Philip.

Suggested Reading Finberg (1972). Gregson (1985). Jones (1976).



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