Page 4, 27th February 1998

27th February 1998
Page 4
Page 4, 27th February 1998 — The first millennium

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People: Christ
Locations: London


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The first millennium

WIRES LIFE in the England of 1000 AD was not so different from life in the England of 1 AD, the gap between life here in 1000 and life here now is so massive that it is hard for our imaginations to make the leap.

The England of 1000 was split in two. The eastern half of it was in the hands of Danes and Vikings (Norwegians, in other words). To this day, there is a predominance of fair-haired and blue-eyed people on the eastern side of the country!

In 994 the Danes had nearly grabbed London, and the English King had to raise a tax to pay off the Viking pirates. The Danish kings had been Christian for about 40 years, but the Vikings were still mainly pagans they revelled in ransacking monasteries.

Yet the bitter fight over England did not often touch upon the lives of England's million-or-so ordinary people. What few towns there were in 1000 were tiny even the largest, London, had a population of only about 5,000.

Nearly everybody lived in tucked-away villages which were made up of dark, damp, timber-framed buildings, coated with wattle-and-daub and thatched.

Even the parish churches were hardly ever built of stone, which is why we have so little evidence around us of what England was like before the Normans conquered it in 1066.

Life for most people was short, and it could be very painful. There was no sanitation and no medicine to speak of. Nor, outside the great monasteries, was there any schooling; very few could read or write.

Nearly everyone farmed for their living, usually working in the open fields which surrounded their villages. Even the parish priest would spend quite a lot of his time working in the fields. People would hardly ever have left their village, except to walk or ride to the local market.

In the England of 1000 it is almost certain that few, if any, ordinary people celebrated the arrival of the new It was a book by a great English scholar, the Venerable Bede, which did most to introduce educated Europeans to the system of dating from Christ's birth, but it is not likely that in this country many people were awate it was 1000.

Yet think of them vith respect and affection. They had freedoms which tieir great-grandchildren ost when the Normans conquered their country The Crucifixion Ind Christ in Majesty in the parish church at Langford in Oxfordshire give us scrne idea how rich their artitic and religious sensitiviies could be.

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