SQTR.-Mr. Edwards gives the impression that evidence exists for the theory that there was no Anglo-Saxon conquest of Britain and casts doubts on St. Bede's competence as a historian. Your readers should know that this theory is based on a one-sided manipulation of the literary evidence alone and does far more violence to the ascertainable facts of this confused period than the " official " view of which he is so scornful.
Even if there was no literary evidence at all for this phase of British history between Ammianus and King Alfred, historians would nevertheless have to postulate from the abundant archaeological evidence, which Wade-Evans does not seem to have considered, an invasion of Britain on a large scale by barbarians from Frisia and the Elbe area.
These invaders spread rapidly up the Midland river valleys from their original settlements in East Anglia, Kent, and Lincolnshire, both cremating their dead and interring them in crude pots whose fabric and decoration betrays their Frisian and German origin, and also burying their bodies with swords, spears, and often with decapitated heads, traits which conflict with their allegedly peaceful nature.
Their arrival coincides with the abandonment of the majority of Romano-British sites which have been excavated.
Any theory which denies an
Anglo-Saxon conquest must satisfactorily explain the almost wholesale displacement in eastern England of place names of Celtic origin by Teutonic ones, often including Germanic personal names and those indicating shrines of their gods. The Latin and Celtic languages used in the preceding Centuries were replaced by Germanic dialects and the religious, cagriincgueldtural, and legal systems also changed. All this took place in eastern Britain and was not limited to the canton of which Winchester was the centre, which Mr. Edwards seems to identify with Britannia Prima.
Both the extent and capital of this province are uncertain, though the latter was possibly at Cirencester. The limitation of the "Island of Britain" to this area conflicts directly with the opening statements of both Bede's history and Gilda's treatise.
The "official" view of "the dons" is more balanced and takes into account not only the indications of a survival of the Romano-British population hut also the much stronger archaeological and literary evidence for a conquest by barbarian Anglo-Saxons and is in no way "so inextricably bound up with anti-Catholic propaganda" as Mr. Edwards asserts'. It does no good to the reputation of Catholics for scholarship to have wild theories advocated because pleasanter to Catholic ears.
R. M. Butler, M.A., Ph.D.
31 Abercorn Place, N.W.8.