MEMO Workshop: Viking Swansea – Fact or Fable?

Thursday 10 April 2014

Registration form/programme

The Swansea Millennium Research Project has been set up by Swansea University’s Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Research (MEMO), to research the origins of the city and to see what light this might shed on Wales’s place in the world before the Norman Conquest.

It has long been recognised that Swansea’s foundation presents an intriguing gap in Welsh history. Whereas so many Welsh towns can trace their origins to the establishment of Roman settlements, it seems likely that Swansea is a later creation, albeit not one recognised in surviving early medieval material in Welsh. The particularity of the city’s name, not obviously derived from Welsh, Latin or Old English, encouraged the theory that Swansea was derived from two words from Old Norse or Old Danish, representing the personal name Sweyn and ey – generally translated as island. In the eleventh century the most prominent Danish magnate active in Britain, and therefore, perhaps, most likely to lend his name to a settlement or trading post, was Sweyn Forkbeard, who first united the crowns of Denmark and England in 1013. Sweyn died in the spring of 1014, and his death provides the terminus ante quem for the suggestion that Swansea should be celebrating its millennium.

This research workshop will concentrate on the support provided by the archaeological evidence – not in Swansea itself, where, so far, no significant evidence has emerged, but from the evidence uncovered elsewhere in Wales and in Southwest England, which support theories of Scandinavian contact with England, Wales and Ireland. It is hoped that the workshop will begin raising questions which can then be addressed more fully at a conference in July 2015.

This workshop is being organised in association with, and with the support, of The Learned Society of Wales and the Research Institute of Arts and Humanities at Swansea University (through its Research Initiatives Fund).

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