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Aspects of Medieval English Language and Literature

Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference of the Society of Historical English Language and Linguistics


Edited By Michiko Ogura and Hans Sauer

This volume is a collection of papers read at the International Medieval Congress at Leeds in 2017, in two sessions organized by the Institute of English Studies at the University of London and four sessions organized by the Society of Historical English Language and Linguistics. Contributions consist of poetry, prose, interlinear glosses, syntax, semantics, lexicology, and medievalism. The contributors employ a wealth of different approaches. The general theme of the IMC 2017 was ‘otherness’, and some papers fit this theme very well. Even when two researchers deal with a similar topic and arrive at different conclusions, the editors do not try to harmonize them but present them as they are for further discussion.

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3 Brunanburh Located: The Battlefield and the Poem



Abstract: The site of the battle in 937 at Brunanburh has long been debated. Nowhere is accepted, although Bromsborough in Cheshire is suggested by some. However, a location on the Brune or River Browney near Durham, mentioned in 1938 by Alistair Campbell, will be conclusive. The English fought near the burh or fort at Lanchester, on the Roman road north. The poem’s dinges mere can be emended to dingles mere ‘sea of (the) abyss’.

The poem on Athelstan's victory over Scots, Strathclyders, and Vikings in the year 937 is well known; the whereabouts of Brunanburh has been unknown. We thus set out what has been said on the problem, before going on to locate Brunanburh at Lanchester, near the Brune or river Browney in County Durham, England. For the location, see also Maps 1–3 at the end of this article.

We begin not with the English poem but a Welsh annal, which (for the year 938) has Bellum Brune, where bellum is ‘battle.’1 This might seem bald and unhelpful. Yet it shows that the form is a toponym, not a personal name. We may compare Old Welsh Gueit Conguoy for the year 880, where gueit is also “battle” and Conguoy is the river Conway of North Wales. So we can be certain that Brune and Brunanburh are not called after some Anglo-Saxon, as has been thought. As to where they were, although they have not previously been put at Lanchester, one nineteenth-century scholar...

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