The Anarchy

War and Status in 12th-Century Landscapes of Conflict

Oliver H. Creighton and Duncan W. Wright

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ISBN: 9781786941855

Publication: June 15, 2018

Series: Exeter Studies in Medieval Europe

In the USA? Buy the Paperback US edition
The turbulent reign of Stephen, King of England (1135–54), has been styled since the late 19th century as 'the Anarchy’, although the extent of political breakdown during the period has since been vigorously debated. Rebellion and bitter civil war characterised Stephen’s protracted struggle with rival claimant Empress Matilda and her Angevin supporters over ‘nineteen long winters’ when, according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, ‘Christ and his Saints slept’. Drawing on new research and fieldwork, this innovative volume offers the first ever overview and synthesis of the archaeological and material record for this controversial period. It presents and interrogates many different types of evidence at a variety of scales, ranging from nationwide mapping of historical events through to conflict landscapes of battlefields and sieges. The volume considers archaeological sites such as castles and other fortifications, churches, monasteries, bishops’ palaces and urban and rural settlements, alongside material culture including coins, pottery, seals and arms and armour. This approach not only augments but also challenges historical narratives, questioning the ‘real’ impact of Stephen’s troubled reign on society, settlement, church and the landscape, and opens up new perspectives on the conduct of Anglo-Norman warfare

Duncan W. Wright is Senior Lecturer in Archaeology and Heritage at Bishop Grosseteste University.

Oliver H. Creighton is Professor of Archaeology at the University of Exeter.

List of Figures Chapter 1: Introduction Chapter 2: Historical Outline and the Geography of Anarchy Chapter 3: Waging War: Fields of Conflict and Siege Warfare Chapter 4: Architecture and Authority: Castles Chapter 5: Artefacts and the Arts: Twelfth-Century Material Culture Chapter 6: Performing Violence: Arms, Armour and Military Apparel Chapter 7: Faith and Fortification: The Church Chapter 8: Village, Town and Country Chapter 9: Anarchy on the Fen Edge: Case Study of the Isle of Ely Chapter 9: The Twelfth-Century Civil War in Context: An Assessment Appendix: Sites to visit Bibliography Index

‘The material evidence that the book brings out from twelfth-century England is fascinating and valuable … it certainly shows the broader material milieu within which the conflict was fought, and thus valuably serves to advance our understanding of the Anarchy.’
Medieval Review


It is an agenda-setting work, positioning archaeology as neither a subservient adjunct to history nor its wilfully ignorant antagonist. Instead, it sensitively positions conflict archaeology (generously defined) as a complementary and powerful array of approaches and sets of evidence with the potential to unlock regions of historical enquiry that other disciplines cannot reach. Overall, this a very useful introduction to the issues surrounding twelfth-century warfare in Britain and in many ways a pioneering work.

Thomas J.T. Williams, British Museum, Cambridge Archaeological Journal


This excellent and elegantly produced volume not only offers challenges to some of these more established orthodoxies, but points up how studies of material evidence — the datasets for which will only grow thanks to the Portable Antiquities Scheme — can contribute to the bigger questions of the period.
Robert Liddiard, University of East Anglia, Medieval Archaeology


‘This is an enormously valuable and engaging book, and it should now become essential reading for any who study Stephen’s reign, Anglo-Norman warfare, or indeed the social history of twelfth-century England.’

Matthew Strickland, Landscape History


'For historians who study the Anarchy period specifically, several of the archaeological insights that Creighton and Wright provide will be helpful. For those who do not, this book stimulates thinking about the study and incorporation of material culture into historical discussion and debate for any era. Some of the maps and renderings are beautiful and offer interesting perceptions on the geographical scope of a long period of conflict but short span of time in ways that written description cannot match.'
Laurence W. Marvin, Berry College, Cambridge

This excellent book reexamines “the Anarchy,” or the period of civil war between King Stephen and his cousin Mathilda (1135–54), integrating into the substantial historiography of the period a growing data set of archaeological findings and the insights of landscape studies to better illuminate the problems of the period. Although the book necessarily constitutes a sort of interim report, given the ongoing accumulation of material culture finds and excavations, it is a completely successful one that both synthesizes extant knowledge and points to potentially fruitful paths for further field research. British archaeologists Creighton (Univ. of Exeter) and Wright (Bishop Grosseteste Univ., Lincoln) examine castles and siege works, military equipment, churches and towns, and daily objects, including coinage. Their conclusions point in seemingly contradictory but, in fact, comprehensible directions. "The Anarchy” was not terribly anarchic in most places, and the period left no archaeological “event horizon” in most ways, save perhaps for an increase in monastic foundations. But it has left evidence of changes in the physical display of lordship, and the war likely accelerated 12th-century trends that transformed the English landscape far more than the 1066 conquest did. Illustrated with many excellent maps, drawings, and photographs. For archaeologists and social, cultural, and military historians.

S. Morillo, Wabash College


It successfully combines detailed archaeological considerations with careful historical assessment and thereby offers an important source for a range of scholars of military history, landscape studies and medieval archaeology... Certainly we learn a lot more about the ‘Anarchy’ and its various impacts and manifestations, and the ongoing problems with finding and reading the archaeology of the period. Dr Neil Christie, University of Leicester

Format: Paperback

Size: 234 × 156 mm

346 Pages

19 colour plates and 52 figures

ISBN: 9781786941855

Publication: June 15, 2018

Series: Exeter Studies in Medieval Europe

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