Writing the Map of Anglo-Saxon England

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Essays in Cultural Geography

Nicholas Howe

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Eminent Anglo-Saxonist Nicholas Howe explores how the English, in the centuries before the Norman Conquest, located themselves both literally and imaginatively in the world. His elegantly written study focuses on Anglo-Saxon representations of  place as revealed in a wide variety of texts in Latin and Old English, as well as in diagrams of holy sites and a single map of the known world found in British Library, Cotton Tiberius B v.  The scholar’s investigations are supplemented and aided by insights gleaned from his many trips to physical sites.  


The Anglo-Saxons possessed a remarkable body of geographical knowledge in written rather than cartographic form, Howe demonstrates. To understand fully their cultural geography, he considers Anglo-Saxon writings about the places they actually inhabited and those they imagined. He finds in Anglo-Saxon geographic images a persistent sense of being far from the center of the world, and he discusses how these migratory peoples narrowed that distance and developed ways to define themselves.


The late Nicholas Howe was professor of English, University of California at Berkeley, and the author of several books, including Migration and Mythmaking in Anglo-Saxon England, published by Yale University Press.

"Nick Howe was the Anglo-Saxonist of my generation. This book, with its inquiries from Beowulf and Bede to post-Conquest England, eloquently testifies to his legacy and maps a future for our scholarship."—Seth Lerer, Stanford University

"Howe's broad and humane perspective makes this not just a landmark work in Anglo-Saxon studies, but a powerfully evocative meditation on land and culture, homeland and exile, conquest and colony, landscape and life, and the human condition of being 'at home' in the world."—Roy Liuzza, University of Tennessee   

"An important contribution to Anglo-Saxon studies. . . . Highly recommended."—Choice

"[A] virtuoso performance. . . . The late Nicholas Howe has written a beautiful and complete book. His sophisticated argument chip away at many of the assumptions on which we erect our sense of the past and the Anglo-Saxons' place within it."—Sebastian Sobecki, Journal of British Studies

‘This is an extraordinary book…with a density of scholarship and imagination that is exhilarating…This is one of those books that remains in the imagination long after one has finished it.’

"[Howe's] passion for his subject matter is evident in these rich and allusive readings, which combine textual analysis, personal observation, theory, philology, manuscript study, and archaeology in a way that will be sure to invigorate (or reinvigorate) the reader's interest in the field of Anglo-Saxon studies more generally. Like Migration and Mythmaking before it, Writing the Map of Anglo-Saxon England is scholarship that is learned and elegant while also being exciting and heartfelt."—Jacqueline Stodnick, Speculuma Journal of Medieval Studies
ISBN: 9780300119336
Publication Date: December 11, 2007
296 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
19 b/w illus.