Session 7 – Shifting frontiers and people in motion
Moderator: Thomas J. MacMaster
A: Helen Lawson
Abercorn’s abandonment: historiographical contexts
Following Northumbrian defeat at the battle of Dún Nechtain, 685, the Northumbrian monastic community retired from Abercorn, on the banks of the Firth of Forth. Yet when Bede wrote in 731, Northumbria’s northern frontier stretched to the Forth. By exploring Bede’s historiography of the battle, the context in which the ‘abandonment’ is presented. I propose to contextualise the abandonment of this episcopacy, its positioning in the politics of the late seventh-century, and the narrative-context in which its details have come to us. The battle itself has been most recently analysed by James Fraser’s (2002) The Battle of Dunnichen 685, and Graeme Cruickshank’s (1991) The Battle of Dunnichen, based on his pamphlet, first published in 1985, Nechtansmere 1300: A Commemoration. The focus of both of these is an appraisal of events, and both encompass a historiographical study, but neither undertakes to consider the significance inferred in the historiography of the political manoeuvring and warfare the ecclesiastical events and conceptualisations of the period.
I will argue that the Bede’s historiographical context given to this event is formed around his conceptualisations of the battle, its precursors and after-effects, and its significance in the progressive Northumbrian story. In focusing upon Abercorn, and its two elements - its conception, and continuation, as a monastic community, and jurisdiction as an episcopal seat – I will frame the some of the politics of the seventh century Forth region.
Respondent: Adrian Maldonado
Continuity and Discontinuity in the Balearic Islands during the Byzantine period (VI-VIII centuries)
The Balearic Islands were recovered by Byzantine Empire in 533, during the renovatio imperii of Justinian. Since then and for more than three centuries the islands remained under the Byzantine orbit. The reforms initiated under Maurice's reign and continued by Heraclius and his successors had a direct impact on the administrative and military organization of the Balearic Islands. In addition the loss of Byzantine territories in Hispania during this time (625-626) had a decisive effect on it.
Recent archaeological discoveries, of various stamp seals belonging to Byzantine officers, have provided us new information about the administration of the Balearic Islands. This allows us to go deeper into the study of the administration and military organization of the islands in this period. Now we can compare the new archaeological evidences with Byzantine and Arab literary sources. In this paper we analyse the changes and transformations, produced since the end of the sixth century, until the firsts contacts with the Islamic world at the beginning of the eighth century and how they affect the organization the Balearics Islands.
Respondent: Danielle Donaldson
C: Marie Legendre
Islamic Conquest, Territorial Reorganization and Empire Formation: A Study of 7thCentury Movements of Population in the Light of Egyptian Papyri
The Early Islamic conquest is known to have provoked large movements of population such as the arrival in Rome of many refugees from the Byzantine Empire. However, within the conquered provinces, territorial organization also shifted along the creation of new capitals and a wide scale reorganisation of geo-strategic dynamic in the whole region, orientated towards new political centres and their network of economic supply. The documentation from Egypt is an unparalleled historical source on the 7th century, especially for the period following the Islamic conquest. Documents in Greek, Coptic and Arabic give very diverse details on the implementation of the conquerors in their new province. As soon as the 640s, they display a great interest for its resources, exploited for the construction of a new capital and the sustenance of the new ruling community. They also mention a large number of fugitives, especially from the reign of Mu‘āwiya, as requisitioned workers tried to escape forced labour for the maintenance of the imperial fleet. Judging from the increasing numbers of fiscal requisitions imposed on the Egyptian population most of those movements of fugitives have been interpreted as motivated by tax-evasion.
However, systematic investigation of papyrological evidence at the local level seems to point to a wider variety of factors explaining those movements of fugitives in 7thcentury Egypt. This paper will investigate the geo-dynamic reorganizations that the early Islamic conquest and the integration of the Egyptian province into the early Islamic Empire caused. The creation of Fusṭāṭ and its fantastic development, the reactivation of old trade routes orientated towards the Ḥiǧāz provide a better understanding of the reaction of the local Egyptian population facing new territorial dynamics. By the end of the 7th century, papyri show that the provincial territory has already shifted to a new territorial pattern.
Respondent: Andrew Marsham
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