Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England

[Image: Witness list of a royal diploma, S 497 (extract); Aelfwine]




In 2001 the PASE database was adapted to allow the handling of information in Anglo-Saxon charters, especially the ordering of witness lists and the inclusion of details of transactions. One of the most significant prosopographical developments made by the project has been the development of ‘Event’ (the record of contact between individuals), and the charter attestations form the most significant body of evidence concerning meetings to survive from the period. Hafed Walda and John Bradley together designed ‘Event’ so that it could handle ordered lists and, for transactions, details of property which allow users to trace the ownership of estates – or similar estates – over time.

Entering Anglo-Saxon charters

William Searle’s Onomasticon of 1897 aimed to provide a ‘fairly complete list of Anglo-Saxon names and of the men and women who bore those names’. As such it is an extraordinary achievement, which extends to about 25,000 items harvested from sources written between the times of Bede and of King John. Searle, however, drew the line at minor charter witnesses most of whose identities became so speculative and obscure that they were largely excluded for the century before the Conquest. PASE has not been so timid. In the pursuit of a complete list of recorded Anglo-Saxons, all charter witnesses were added to the original database, and during PASE 2, a linked, but distinct, database has been made for the very much larger number of individuals recorded in Domesday Book and related materials.

Speculative identifications have been made for many of minor thegns. The backbone of this endeavour was Simon Keynes’ Atlas of Charter Attestations, which visibly traces the prospective courtly attendance of witnesses across time and charters. By and large his identifications have been adhered to and anyone seeking clarification on the plausibility of any association should consult his work. The identification of any witness in two or more charters is necessarily speculative, and opinions are here expressed with provisos, such as that one person in PASE may have represented several people in reality. A similar procedure has been followed in PASE 2.

Such problems underline the utility of online publication: faults can be easily brought to light and rectified.

Editions used

Where possible the latest British Academy editions have been used for data-entry, and where not, Birch, Kemble, or other sources have been used. Each charter is assigned a table which displays the source of the text used by the researcher.


It has been necessary to exclude some charters from this phase of the data-entry due to time-pressures and the limitations of current historical research. The AHRC-funded Language of Anglo-Saxon Landscape (LangScape), directed by Joy Jenkyns, which was published online in a preliminary version in 2008, contains prosopographical data, and a link to PASE is planned. It is hoped that data from Sawyer’s list of ‘Lost and Incomplete Texts’ (S nos. 1603−1875) currently being worked on by Rebecca Rushforth will be added to PASE in due course.