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

University of Gothenburg (Sweden)


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.


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                                      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  December 12th, 2023