Review: Frisians and their North Sea Neighbours

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Frisians and their North Sea Neighbours: from the 5th century to the Viking age
John Hines and Nelleke IJssennagger (eds)
Boydell & Brewer, £75
ISBN 978-1783271795
Review by: Catherine Hills

Early medieval Frisia had a complicated history. Broadly speaking, it occupied the coastal regions of what are now the Netherlands and north-west Germany. Close connections between Anglo-Saxons and Frisians are apparent in their language and in their shared version of the runic alphabet. Each chapter takes a different topic relevant to the question of how and why this connection existed, covering historical, archaeological, and linguistic evidence, runes, and wergilds. Each gives a clear exposition of the nature of the evidence, which is of value to general readers and students as well as to specialists, and enables informed interdisciplinary communication.

An important point is that features shared by different cultures can be the result of interaction rather than being evidence of a hypothetical common origin. Movement across and around the North Sea did sometimes take the form of migration or invasion by Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, and others, but long-term small-scale interaction – trade, embassies, pilgrimage, marriage – may have been a more significant source of convergence in language and material culture. Based on conference papers, the book has been well edited as a whole, with good illustrations and a consistent style. It makes a valuable contribution to the history of the North Sea region, especially the relationship between Anglo-Saxon England and its near continental neighbours.

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