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Title: Kingship and conversion : constructing pre-Viking Mercia
Author: Tyler, Damian John
ISNI:       0000 0001 3540 2905
Awarding Body: University of Manchester : University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2002
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This thesis seeks to explore changes in patterns of Mercian kingship from c. 633 to 796. It is argued that during this period Mercian kings acquired more functions and developed a form of kingship which was more powerful, more centralized and more invasive than hitherto. It is suggested that these changes occurred as a consequence of the adoption by Mercian kings of Rome-focused Christianity. An interdisciplinary methodology has been adopted, using a range of literary and non-literary sources, to produce four case studies which examine different aspects of Mercian kingship at different periods. The first case study makes a broad overview of the career and kingship of Penda. The second explores the changing relationships between religion, ethnicity and group identity. The third case study considers the role of the emporium at London in the creation of a more integrated supra-regional elite. The final study examines Offa's Dyke, and considers the significance of that monument for visions of Mercian royal ideology. While it is accepted that the surviving sources are few and fragmentary, it is suggested that a re-examination of them can do much to advance our understanding of Mercian kingship. It is argued that the pre-conversion Mercian hegemony presided over by Penda was a political. system which depended on the existence of multiple kingships, loosely tied together by personal links between kings. It is suggested that the introduction of Rome-oriented Christianity not only provided Mercian rulers with mechanisms making centralization possible, but also with new paradigms of kingship which made it seem desirable. Using models drawn from social anthropology, it is argued that Penda's hegemony was ethnically and religiously pluralist in composition, and that the diverse elites of this system were bound together by non-ethnic forms of group identity. It is suggested that the ideological entailments of conversion ultimately resulted in the development of more exclusive, more self-consciously 'English' forms of kingship. Finally, an attempt is made to position the findings of this thesis in the mainstream of research on pre-viking Mercia. It is argued that for much of the twentieth century, eighth-century Mercian kingship was seen as an important stage in the development of a unified English kingship. More recently, it is suggested revisionist insights have resulted in a downgrading of visions of 'the Mercian Supremacy', which is now seen as less impressive than earlier scholars maintained, and essentially ephemeral. It is argued that, in rejecting earlier, overstated models, revisionism has perhaps gone too far. No attempt is made to reoccupy pre-revisionist positions, but it is proposed that eight-century Mercian kingship was more significant than modern interpretations allow.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available