Do Manuscripts Burn? The Representativeness of the Corpus of Royal Diplomas of Late pre-Norman England (871–1066): Opening a Discussion


Denis V. Sukhino-Khomenko


Main text and references (pdf)

Appendix 1. Maps (pdf)

Appendix 2. Tables (pdf)


For citation: Sukhino-Khomenko, Denis V. Do Manuscripts Burn? The Representativeness of the Corpus of Royal Diplomas of Late pre-Norman England (871–1066): Opening a Discussion // Graphosphaera. 2022. Vol. 2. № 1. P. 175–286. URL: 

DOI: 10.32608/2782-5272-2022-2-1-175-286

Abstract: This article addresses the problem of the representativeness of the surviving corpus of English pre-Norman royal diplomas. For historical reasons, the analysis focuses on diplomas generated between the reigns of Alfred the Great and Edward the Confessor (871–1066). More specifically, the numerical, geographical, and chronological aspects are discussed. This research spotlights a peculiarly pronounced correlation between the ethno-political division of Lowland Britain into the “Danelaw” and “Greater Wessex”, as well as between the sum total of charters for a given region and the number of archives in it. The article then asks whether the archival and chronological distribution of the extant royal acta can be considered objective. The data available leave room for potential mass losses in the documentary material to the degree of significant distortions in the extant sample. However, when put together, indirect evidence tips the balance in favour of the corpus’ at least relative chronological and geographical representativeness, even if the said losses distorted it to a lesser or greater degree.


Key words: Anglo-Saxons, charters, diplomas, Danelaw, Wessex, medieval archives, bookland, will, statistic, thegns


Introductory overview. P. 177.

Quantitative representativeness. P. 179.

Geographical representativeness. P. 183.

General geographical distribution. P. 185.

Archival distribution. P. 190.

Randomness of the sample vs. geographical representativeness: Three arguments. P. 192.

Possible direct counterarguments. P. 193.

Possible indirect counterarguments. P. 206.

Chronological representativeness. P. 220.

Peaks and falls on the chronological diagram. P. 20.

The decline of royal grants in the 11th century? P. 226.

Conclusion. P. 233.

Appendix 1. Maps (drawn by Thomas Ekholm). P. 237.

Appendix 2. Tables. P. 248.

References. P. 281.


Библиография / References

Болдырева И. И. Женские монастыри Англии IX – середины XI веков // Научный диалог. 2019. № 12. С. 249–263. [Boldyreva I. I. Zhenskiye monastyri Anglii IX – serediny XI vekov (Nunneries in England in the 9th – mid-11th centuries) // Nauchniy dialog. 2019. N 12. S. 249–263.]

Глебов А. Г. Англосаксонское судопроизводство и Альфред Великий: дело о поместье в Фонтхилле // Исторические записки: науч. тр. Ист. ф-та Воронежского ун-та. 2000. Вып. 5. С. 119–128. [Glebov A. G. Anglosaksonskoye sudoproizvodstvo i Al’fred Velikiy: delo o pomest’ye v Fontkhille (Anglo-Saxon Legal Proceedings and Alfred the Great: the Case of the Fonthill Estate) // Istoricheskiye zapiski: nauch. tr. Ist. f-ta Voronezhskogo un-ta. 2000. Vyp. 5. S. 119–128.]

Глебов А. Г. Разрешение земельных споров в раннесредневековой Англии: норма законодательства и судебная практика // Historia Animata. М., 2004. Ч. 2. C. 41–51. [Glebov A. G. Razresheniye zemel’nykh sporov v rannesrednevekovoy Anglii: norma zakonodatel’stva i sudebnaya praktika (The Resolution of the Land Disputes in Early Medieval England: Legal Norm and Court Practice) // Historia Animata. Moscow, 2004. Ch. 2. S. 41–51.]

Книжица епископа Этельвольда / Пер. с лат., вступ. ст. и примеч. А. Ю. Золотарёва // Средние века. 2008. Т. 63. № 3. С. 159–201. [Knizhitsa yepiskopa Etel’vol’da (Libellus Æthelwoldi episcopi) / Transl. from Latin, intr. and comments by A. Yu. Zolotaryov // Sredniye veka. 2008. T. 63. № 3. S. 159–201.]

Сухино-Хоменко Д. В. К вопросу о хронологическом распределении ан­гло-саксонских грамот XI в. // Письмо и повседневность. М., 2015. Вып. 2. С. 78–84. [Sukhino-Khomenko D. V. K voprosu o khronologicheskom raspredelenii anglo-saksonskikh gramot XI v. (On the Chronological Distribution of Anglo-Saxon Charters of the 11th century) // Pis’mo i povsednevnost’. Moscow, 2015. Vyp. 2. S. 78–84.]

Сухино-Хоменко Д. В., Гимон Т. В. Государи и грамоты: Введение в дипломатику королевского акта в раннесредневековой Англии // Graphosphaera: Письмо и письменные практики. М., 2022. Т. 2. № 1. С. 25–174. [Sukhino-Khomenko D. V., Guimon T. V. Gosudari i gramoty: Vvedeniye v diplomatiku korolevskogo akta v rannesrednevekovoy Anglii (Cyningas and cartae: An introduction in the diplomatic of royal charters in early medieval England) // Graphosphaera: Writing and Written Practices. Moscow, 2021. Vol. 2. № 1. S. 25–174.]

Фонтхильское письмо (судебная тяжба в англосаксонской Англии) / Пер. с др.-англ., вступ. ст. и примеч. З. Ю. Метлицкой // Cursor Mundi: человек Античности, Средневековья и Возрождения. 2009. № 2. С. 220–225. [Fontkhil’skoye pis'mo (sudebnaya tyazhba v anglosaksonskoy Anglii) (The Fonthill Letter: A Lawsuit in Anglo-Saxon England) / Transl. from Old English, intr. and comments by Z. Yu. Metlitskaya // Cursor Mundi: chelovek Antichnosti, Srednevekov’ya i Vozrozhdeniya. 2009. № 2. S. 220–225.]

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: A Revisited Translation / Ed. D. Whitelock, D. C. Douglas, S. I. Tucker. L.: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1961.

BASC – Anglo-Saxon Charters (British Academy and Royal Historical Society series) / Ser. ed. N. Vincent. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1973– Vol. 1–20.

Bates – Regesta Regum Anglo-Normannorum: The Acta of William I (1066–1087) / Ed. D. Bates. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998.

Baxter S. The Domesday Controversy: A Review and a New Interpretation // The Haskins Society Journal. 2017. Vol. 29. P. 225–293.

Baxter S. Lordship and Justice in Late Anglo-Saxon England: The Judicial Functions of Soke and Commendation Revisited // Early Medieval Studies in Memory of Patrick Wormald / Ed. S. Baxter et al. Farnham, 2009. P. 383–419.

Baxter S., Blair J. Land Tenure and Royal Patronage in the Early English Kingdom: A Model and a Case of Study // Anglo-Norman Studies. 2006. Vol. 28. P. 19–46.

Baxter S., Lewis C. P. Domesday Book and the Transformation of English Landed Society, 1066–86 // Anglo-Saxon England. 2017. Vol. 46. P. 343–403.

Bougard F., Bührer-Thierry G., Le Jan R. Elites in the Early Middle Ages: Identities, Strategies, Mobility // Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales. 2013. Vol. 68. N 4. P. 733–768.

Darby H. C. Domesday England. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977.

Dogson J. McN., Palmer J. J. N. Domesday Book: A Survey of the Counties of England. Chichester: Phillimore, 1992. Vol. 37: Index of Persons.

Esch A. Überlieferungs-Chance und Überlieferungs-Zufall als methodisches Problem des Historikers // Historische Zeitschrift. 1985. Bd. 240. N 3. S. 529–570.

Fenton A. G. P. Writs in England before the Norman Conquest: PhD Thesis / Univ. of Cambridge. Cambridge, 2020 // (9.09.2021).

Fenton A. G. P. Royal Authority, Regional Integrity: The Function and Use of Anglo-Saxon Writ Formulae // The Languages of Early Medieval Charters: Latin, Germanic Vernaculars, and the Written Word. Leiden; Boston, 2021. P. 412–435.

Foot S. Æthelstan: The Fisrt King of England. L.; New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011.

Foy J. D. Domesday Book: A Survey of the Counties of England. Chichester: Phillimore, 1992. Vol. 38: Index of Subjects.

GDB, LDB = Domesday Book: A Survey of the Counties of England / Ser. ed. J. Morris. Chichester: Phillimore, 1973–1986. Vol. 1–35.

Godfrey J. The Church in Anglo-Saxon England. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1962.

Grassi J. L. The Lands and Revenues of Edward the Confessor // The English Historical Review. 2002. Vol. 117. N 471. P. 251–283.

Hadcock R. N., Knowles D. Medieval Religious Houses: England and Wales. L.: Longmans, Green, 1958.

Hart C. R., Syme A. The Earliest Suffolk Charter // Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History. 1987. Vol. 36 (3). P. 165–181.

Hunt J. Warriors, Warlords and Saints: The Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Mercia. Alcester: West Midlands History, 2016.

Insley Ch. Where Did All the Charters Go? Anglo-Saxon Charters and the New Politics of the Eleventh Century // Anglo-Norman Studies. 2001. Vol. 24. P. 109–127.

Insley Ch. The Family of Wulfric Spott: An Anglo-Saxon Marcher Dynasty? // The English and their Legacy, 900–1200: Essays in Honour of Ann Williams / Ed. D. Roffe. Woodbridge, 2012. P. 115–128.

Insley Ch. Archives and Lay Documentary Practice in the Anglo-Saxon World // Documentary Culture and the Laity in the Early Middle Ages / Ed. W. C. Brown et al. N. Y., 2013. P. 336–362. (a)

Insley Ch. Looking for Charters that Aren’t There: Lost Anglo-Saxon Charters and Archival Footprints // Problems and Possibilities of Early Medieval Charters / Ed. J. Jarrett, A. S. McKinley. Turnhout, 2013. P. 171–186. (b)

Insley Ch. England and the Atlantic Archipelago: From Alfred to the Norman Conquest // Debating Medieval Europe: The Early Middle Ages, c. 450 – c. 1050 / Ed. S. Mossman. Manchester, 2020. P. 226–263. (a)

Insley Ch. Why 1016 Matters; or, The Politics of Memory and Identity in Cnut’s Kingdom // Conquests in Eleventh-Century England: 1016, 1066 / Ed. L. Ashe, E. J. Ward. Woodbridge, 2020. P. 3–22. (b)

Jurasinski S., Oliver L. The Laws of Alfred: The Domboc and the Making of Anglo-Saxon Law. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021.

Hill D. An Atlas of Anglo-Saxon England. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981.

Kelly S. Trading Privileges from eighth-century England // Early Medieval Europe. 1992. Vol. 1. N 1. P. 3–28.

Keynes S. The Diplomas of King Æthelred ‘the Unready’ 978–1016: A Study in Their Use as Historical Evidence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980 [2005].

Keynes S. Regenbald the Chancellor (sic) // Anglo-Norman Studies. 1988. Vol. 10. P. 185–222.

Keynes S. Royal Government and the Written Word // The Uses of Literacy in Mediaeval Europe / Ed. R. McKitterick. Cambridge, 1990. P. 227–256.

Keynes S. The Fonthill Letter // Words, Texts and Manuscripts: Studies in Anglo-Saxon Culture Presented to Helmut Gneuss / Ed. M. Korhammer. Cambridge, 1992. P. 53–97.

Keynes S. A Conspectus of the Charters of King Edgar, 957–75 // Edgar, King of the English 959–975: New Interpretations / Ed. D. G. Scragg. Woodbridge, 2008. P. 60–80.

Keynes S. Church Councils, Royal Assemblies, and Anglo-Saxon Royal Diplomas // Kingship, Legislation and Power in Anglo-Saxon England / Ed. G. R. Owen-Crocker, B. W. Schneider. Woodbridge, 2013. P. 17–182.

Keynes S. Heregeld // The Whiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Anglo-Saxon England / Ed. by M. Lapidge, J. Blair, S. Keynes, and D. Scragg. 2nd ed. Chichester, 2014. P. 240.

Knowles D. The Monastic Order in England: A History of its Development from the Times of St Dunstan to the Fourth Lateran Council, 940–1216 / 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1963.

Lambert T. B. Law and Order in Anglo-Saxon England. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017.

Lavelle R. Royal Control and the Disposition of Estates in Tenth-Century England: Reflections on the Charters of King Eadwig (955–959) // The Haskins Society Journal. 2011. Vol. 23. P. 23–50.

Liebermann F. Die Gesetze der Angelsachsen. Halle: Max Niemeyer, 1903. Bd. 1.

Lupoi M. The Origins of the European Legal Order / Transl. A. Belton. N. Y.: Cambridge University Press, 2000 (первая публикация под заголовком «Alle Radici del Mondo Giuridico Europeo» в 1994 г.).

Middle English Dictionary / Ser. ed. R. E. Lewis. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1997. Vol. U-V.

Molyneaux G. The Formation of the English Kingdom in the Tenth Century. N. Y.: Oxford University Press, 2015.

Naismith R. The Land Market and Anglo-Saxon Society // Historical Research. 2016. Vol. 89. № 243. P. 19–41.

Page 1906 – A History of the County of Lincoln / Ed. W. Page. L.: Victoria County History, 1906. Vol. 2.

Page 1908a – A History of the County of Dorset / Ed. W. Page. L.: Victoria County History, 1908. Vol. 2.

Page 1908b – A History of the County of Warwick / Ed. W. Page. L.: Victoria County History, 1908. Vol. 2.

Page 1975 – A History of the County of Suffolk / Ed. W. Page. L.: Victoria County History, 1975. Vol. 2.

Page, Proby, Norris 1926 – A History of the County of Huntingdon / Ed. W. Page, G. Proby, H. E. Norris. L.: Victoria County History, 1926. Vol. 1.

Pratt D. The Political Thought of King Alfred the Great. N. Y.: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

Reynolds S. Fiefs and Vassals: The Medieval Evidence Reinterpreted. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994.

Roach L. Kingship and Consent in Anglo-Saxon England, 871–978: Assemblies and the State in the Early Middle Ages. N. Y.: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

Rollason D. Early Medieval Europe, 300–1050: A Guide for Studying and Teaching. 2nd ed. N. Y.: Routledge, 2018.

Rumble A. R. The Structure and Reliability of the Codex Wintoniensis (British Museum Additional MS 15350; the Cartulary of Winchester Cathedral Priory): PhD Thesis / Univ. of London. L., 1980.

Rumble A. R. Old English bōc-land as an Anglo-Saxon Estate-Name // Leeds Studies in English. 1987. Vol. 18. P. 219–229.

Rumble A. R. Anglo-Saxon Royal Archives: Their Nature, Extent, Survival and Loss // Kingship, Legislation and Power in Anglo-Saxon England / Ed. G. R. Owen-Crocker, B. W. Schneider. Woodbridge, 2013. P. 185–199.

Salzman L. F. A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely. L.: Victoria County History, 1948. Vol. 2.

The Settlement of Disputes in Early Medieval Europe / Ed. W. Davies, P. Fouracre. N. Y.: Cambridge University Press, 1986.

Snook B. The Anglo-Saxon Chancery: The History, Language and Production of Anglo-Saxon Charters from Alfred to Edgar. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2015.

Stattel J. A. Legal Culture in the Danelaw: A Study of III Æthelred // Anglo-Saxon England. Cambridge, 2022. Vol. 48. P. 163–202.

Stenton F. M. The Latin Charters of the Anglo-Saxon Period. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1955.

Sukhino-Khomenko D. “Twelve Angry Thegns”: Some Possible Old Norse Legalisms in Old English Texts // Scandia: Journal of Medieval Norse Studies. 2020. Vol. 3. P. 201–237

( [3.10.2021])

Sukhino-Khomenko D. «Thrymsa, a Coin [not] in Circulation in Northern England»: Source Criticism of Archbishop Wulfstan’s Norðleoda Laga and its Monetary Systems in the Way of Social History (England, 10–11th centuries) // Proslogion: Studies in Medieval and Early Modern Social History and Culture. 2021. Vol. 6. N 1. P. 8–42

( [3.10.2021]).

Timofeeva O. Chancery Norms Before Chancery English? Templates in Royal Writs from Alfred the Great to William the Conqueror // Journal of Historical Pragmatics. 2019. Vol. 20. N 1. P. 51–77.

Tinti F. Writing Latin and Old English in Tenth-Century England: Patterns, Formulae and Language Choice in the Leases of Oswald of Worcester // Writing, Kingship and Power in Anglo-Saxon England / Ed. R. Naismith, D. A. Woodman. N. Y., 2018. P. 303–327.

Tollerton L. Wills and Will-Making in Anglo-Saxon England. N. Y.; York: Boydell and Brewer — York Medieval Press, 2011.

Trousdale A. A. The Charter Evidence for the Reign of King Edmund (939–46) // Problems and Possibilities of Early Medieval Charters / Ed. J. Jarrett, A. S. McKinley. Turnhout, 2013. P. 253–274.

Wareham A. Lords and Communities in Early Medieval East Anglia. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2005.

Watt W. W. An American Rhetoric. 3rd ed. N. Y.: Rinehart and Co, 1958.

Williams A. The English and the Norman Conquest. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 1995.

Williams A. The World before Domesday: The English Aristocracy, 900–1066. London: Continuum, 2008.

Wormald P. On þa Wæpnedhealfe: Kingship and Royal Property from Æthelwulf to Edward the Elder // Edward the Elder, 899–924 / Ed. N. J. Higham, D. Hill. L.; N. Y., 2001. P. 264–279.

Wormald P. Bede and the Conversion of England: The Charter Evidence // Wormald P. The Times of Bede / Ed. S. Baxter. Oxford, 2006. P. 135–166 (first published 1984).

Wormald P. Papers Preparatory to The Making of English Law: King Alfred to the Twelfth Century / Ed. S. Baxter, J. Hudson. University of London: Early English Laws, 2014 // (25.12.2021).


                                      Онлайн-ресурсы / Online resources

LangScape — The Language of Landscape // (3.10.2021).

LASC — Languages of Anglo-Saxon Charters // (3.10.2021).

PASE — Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England // (14.02.2022).

PASE Domesday – Domesday Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England // (3.10.2021).

S – The Electronic Sawyer // (3.10.2021).

Published on  November 21st, 2022