Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Was St Edmund killed by the Vikings in Essex?

The story of Edmund, king and martyr, has become a kind of foundation myth for the county of Suffolk, but contains at least one element of truth – in 869 there was a battle between the East Anglians and the Vikings; Edmund was captured and later killed.

However, the site of the battle (recorded as Hægelisdun) was forgotten, and different modern historians have suggested that it was at Hoxne in Suffolk, Hellesdon in Norfolk, or at Bradfield St Clare near Bury. The new proposal by Dr Briggs is unusual in that it is based on a detailed analysis of the linguistic structure of the various place-names involved. UWE Bristol has several experts among its staff in the study of both place-names and personal names from the viewpoint of historical linguistics. The use of place-names has long been recognized as an essential input into the broad study of settlement and migration, but the current work is an intriguing example of a precise conclusion about one historical event being drawn purely from place-name research.

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