as an example of, what i think is a very important original source. i'd like to talk about the Venerable, Bede. first of all, for people who don't happen to know, who was he? he was an English, or to be more accurate an Anglian Monk, who lived and died at the Monastery of Jarrow near, to what is now Newcastle in Ireland. no, i don't think it's in Ireland, on the coast. um, and he died in seven thirty-five. um, and he wrote an ecclesiastical history of the English nation, in medieval Latin. um, y- you wrote in Latin, rather than Anglo-Saxon, or whatever your Germanic dialect was then.
um, it's rather important, for several reasons. it's a first time a general, sort of, history or survey of what was to become, England, you know, in the next couple of centuries. was written by anyone, who could broadly be called, the, English, or proto-English. even though, of course, he was writing in simplified Latin. um, there had been a few things written about Britain beforehand. but, by_ partly by outsiders, like Tacitus in Britain and Germany, a few hundred years before. but he would be approaching it, rather like an English gentleman, writing about India, or Afghanistan, in the, um, nineteenth century. you know, he was a sophisticated, um, outsider belonging to the conquering nation. then, other chronicles at the time were written by Welsh and Irish people. who were, equally natives. i don't think any of them was, um, a rival to Bede, in the sense that they were attempting to, do the history of the whole of Britain. not at that point. they did later.
and also, of course, by definition, they weren't the start of, the English. when they wrote about the English, in fact, the Welsh regarded them as, very much, the enemy. so with Bede. you focus, it's the first direct evidence, by a proto-English person, of the tribes, and peoples who were to become England. who were to form the Kingdom of England, by nine hundred A-D. secondly, he's probably the first original source i ever encountered. in our first term as undergraduates, we had to study the Venerable Bede. um, for two reasons. one, to check on our knowledge of medieval Latin. in those days, people who studied History were expected to equipped. secondly, because, quite rightly, the dons thought it was a very useful source, to introduce us to the Anglo-Saxon period. it would be useful when we started to study, Anglo-Saxon history.
now, Bede is describing, um, largely, the, um, conversions of England from paganism. which happened, um, about a hundred years, roughly before he was writing. which happened between the five nineties, and the six fifties. um, in other words, i think, his narrative trails off, about the time when he himself was born. which was probably about, six sixty. he dies in seven thirty-five. and, um, his characterisation of various people, like Kings_ Kings Oswald and Oswy of Northumberland, for example. or the Scottish-Irish monk in Aiden, who comes down to Northumberland, are very vivid.
um, and, he tells one a lot, about, um, conditions of those days. but, of course, there are, um, strong limitations. which, um, tantalise present day historians, who'd like to know more. um, Bede will mention things, casually, say about economic or social life. cattle herding, or something. and because they're so familiar with_ to him, so much of everyday, he just mentions them in half a sentence, and goes on to more interesting things. which is religion and high politics. so, just as we don't spend a lot of time saying, um, elaborating the fact that some character crossed a road, using, zebra-crossing, or something. we don't go on and on about that. um, and, but also he has obsessions, which are, little to do with us. about how, someone_ some saintly person died, then forty years later, their tomb was opened, and a very sweet smell came from it. or he congratulates someone for hanging on to the jewel of their virginity. which always used to amuse us, as you can expect, when you're eighteen. it's not something we wanted to do. but Bede thought it was a marvellous thing.
um, you know, so there's a lot of that. um, he's also, um, although he appreciates, and is very sympathetic towards the Celtic Tradition of Christianity. he talks about the Roman Tradition, rather more. um, it's_ to set the scene, there were two waves of chr_ um, uh, missionaries. one sent by the Popes, from Rome. symbolised by St. Augustine of Canterbury, who arrives at the court of the King of Kent, Ethelred in_ not Ethelred, sorry, i've forgotten the name of this King of Kent. but in five nine six. the other which came into Northumbria, of which Bede was a native, were the Irish, who'd been Christianised_ this is all very complicated_ Christianised by the Welsh, or Romana British. then they decided to bring it back into Scotland. and then they decided they had a duty to evangelise the Northern English.
but the Irish, or Celtic Church, it wasn't actually a separate church from Rome. they acknowledged the authority of the Pope. but they had different customs. and in six six four, their customs had been overruled by the mainstream Roman Church. so, Bede was brought up in the Roman Church, and regards the Irish as spontaneous, but not properly organised, very good people. so, he emphasises the Roman Tradition rather more, particularly as time goes on. um, for instance, when he's talking about the evangelisation of Sussex, um, he emphasises, very much, a Roman mission. he describes in detail, which down to Sussex. he does not talk_ but he also mentions about a sentence, that when they got there, they encountered an Irish Monastery already there. and he just mentions that, as an aside. so that tells us one thing. that Irish, sort of, um, fairly spontaneous missionary activities going on all over Britain, not just in the North. one things. and secondly, um, it's tantalising because we would like Bede to say more about it. to give the same at_ attention to these Irish Missions in Southern England, that he gives to the Roman Mission. but he doesn't, he just mentions it. and then continues to focus on the Roman Missionaries. so, um, it, uh, is_ that i think, is_ shows, certains or limitations.
but, we were taught, another valuable thing. we had some very good lecturers. and, we were taught to use_ not to take, you know, material at face value. not just to accept the agenda, that the writer, in this case Bede, was putting out. because, he's a highly intelligent man, he organised his material well. but he's a man of_ let's see how long ago? um, twelve hundred and_ between twelve hundred, and thirteen hundred years ago. you can't think like that. but to unpluck_ to try and use what he says, to glean as, as much as possible from it. like a detective. to use his clues, and push them further. and to put what Bede says, together with other evidence. converted written evidence, or contradictory of an evidence. also, with archaeological evidence. um, it's always, rather troublesome of course, if you have only one piece of evidence, of any particular period, or any particular topic. and it's very illuminating if you can also find, a totally different piece of evidence.
now for this period we're talking about, which the Victorians used to call the Dark Ages. a valued judgement in itself. we don't have too much written evidence. Bede, is of course, one of the shining exceptions. but, there is an awful lot of archaeological evidence. in fact, we know far more about, um, early Anglo-Saxon England, through archaeology, than the Victorians did. because in Victorian times it had just started up. they had their Bede, and they could read Latin, better than, in general the educated class, better than the educated class now. but they didn't have so much scientific archaeology. so, one way of using evidence, is to put Bede together with, archaeological evidence, digging up the halls of the Kings of Northumberland, for example.
so, um, that is an early introduction i think to, what is a very good historical source. but, an awful lot of skill still has to be taken in interpreting an historical source. secondly, tantalisingly, historical sources stop dead, when you want them to go further, because the writer's agenda is not yours. how could it be.