Atlas of Attestations

Introductory note

An Atlas of Attestations in Anglo-Saxon Charters c. 670--1066 presents in tabular form a systematic representation of all names recorded in the witness-lists of royal diplomas of the Anglo-Saxon period. It is organised in 78 tables (I-LXXVIII), amounting in total to about 200 pages, printed on A3 sheets.

The Atlas was devised and compiled by Simon Keynes in the early 1990s, and modified thereafter. Copies of the Atlas in printed form (A3 sheets) were first made available to interested parties in 1993, revised in 1998. The Atlas was first published in the series ASNC Guides, Texts and Studies (Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, University of Cambridge) in 2002. 

For links to PDF files of the component tables in the Atlas of Attestations, and for an 'Introduction', with some more detailed observations on particular tables, please go to the side menu (under construction).

The edition of the Atlas made available on the 'Kemble' website uses the Excel tables which lie behind the 2002 edition. SDK is grateful for Dr Stephen Baxter, Department of History, King's College London, for his encouragement and guidance in April/May 2012, and for showing how the tables could be converted to a format suitable for effective display online. SDK is also grateful to Emma Connolly (Mrs Baker) for processing the files, and uploading them to this website, in September 2012.

Further explanation

One of the most distinctive features of an Anglo-Saxon royal diploma is the list of witnesses. As remarked elsewhere on this website, the witness-list should not be regarded as a list drawn up with particular reference to the particular charter in which it occurs (though there is some evidence that witnesses were in some instances selected for the purpose); rather, a witness-list is to be seen as a 'literary' text in its own right, derived by the scribe of the diploma from a separate memorandum of those who were present at the royal assembly at which the diploma was issued.

It has long been appreciated that these witness-lists, in effect these records of attendance (however imperfect in themselves) at the royal assemblies which were central to the business of royal government in Anglo-Saxon England, constitute an invaluable source of historical information. <Ramsey chronicle, on Ealdorman Æthelstan.>

The witness-lists come into their own when all of the available evidence can be viewed in tabular form - when a sequence of attestations in a particular name can be resolved into the attestations of a particular person, and when the attestations of a particular person can be seen across an extended period, and judged in relation to the attestations of others. 

L. M. Larson included a table showing attestations of Cnut's earls in his paper on 'The political policies of Cnut as king of England', published in the American Historical Review 15 (1910), pp. 720-43. Many others might well have compiled tables of their own for the same or other categories of witnesses in earlier and later periods.

A difficulty, however, was that the nineteenth-century printed editions of charters could not be relied upon for work of this kind, making it necessary to check every text against the available manuscripts (whether single sheets, cartulary copies, or later transcripts from single sheets or cartularies now lost), if the data were to be of any use. Another was the difficulty of constructing tables on the scale required, checking and correcting the data, and making adjustments to the display (e.g. in the arrangement of the columns and rows). 

Tables for all categories of witnesses were constructed (using squared paper) for the reign of King Æthelred the Unready and published in S. Keynes, The Diplomas of King Æthelred 'the Unready' (Cambridge, 1980). 

Advances in technology then created new opportunities. In particular, it was the availability of basic spreadsheet software (Microsoft Excel) which made the difference. The tables in the Atlas of Attestations were first compiled in 1992-3. The work was done during the tenure of a British Academy Research Readership (1991-3), as part of the groundwork for a projected book on England 850-1087. In 1993 the tables were organised and made available in the form of An Atlas of Attestations in Anglo-Saxon Charters, c. 670-1066. A revised version of the Atlas was made available in 1998. After further revision the Atlas was formally published in 2002, in a series which appeared under the auspices of the Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, in the University of Cambridge.