Professor Jo Story discusses her research on Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms.
Much more evidence survives from the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms before the Norman Conquest than many people realise, and much of it is easily accessible to the public. Academic research is making great strides in opening up this fascinating period of Britain’s past to wider audiences, through exhibitions in national collections and local churches, both online and in person. My research on manuscripts and sculpture made in the period between c. 700–1100 CE engages directly with local and national heritage collections and through them to public audiences.
I was the lead academic advisor for a sell-out international exhibition at the British Library held in 2018/19, called Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms: Art, Word, War. This show focused on manuscripts written in Latin and in Old English in this period and showcased the extraordinary art, calligraphy, and learning of the early middle ages. More than 100,000 visitors saw the exhibition at the British Library, and the exhibition catalogue had to be reprinted several times such was the demand. My work on the exhibition was supported by a project on Insular Manuscripts supported by the Leverhulme Trust and by an AHRC-funded PhD student, Dr Becky Lawton, who held a collaborative doctoral award based at the British Library, and was co-supervised by Dr Claire Breay, Head of Ancient, Medieval and Early Modern Manuscripts and curator of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms exhibition.
I also work on Anglo-Saxon sculpture and am co-producing the catalogue of extant stone sculpture for the East Midlands, as part of the British Academy’s Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture, funded by the AHRC through a major research grant held at Durham University. Leicestershire contains a nationally important collection of sculpture made in the decades around 800 at Breedon-on-the-Hill. Here I am working with Dr Rachel Askew, who is the Heritage officer for the National Lottery Heritage Fund Breedon Priory project and her local volunteers, with AHRC-M4C student, Teresa Porciani and with Professor Dominic Powlesland of the Landscape Research Centre to produce 3D-models of the Anglo-Saxon sculpture at Breedon. All of these models are Open Access, and free to view, and will be embedded in websites of both the AHRC-Corpus and Rachel’s Breedon Priory in due course.