Tom Williams

Landscape and Warfare in Early Medieval Britain

The study of early medieval conflict landscapes has hitherto been largely driven by the traditional research agendas of military historians and battlefield archaeologists who have sought above all to precisely locate battlefields and reconstruct narratives of engagement. The deeply problematic nature of the source material for reliably identifying sites has, however, resulted in the locational significance of battlefields remaining under-researched. My thesis approaches the subject from a different angle and takes its theoretical perspective from anthropological and archaeological approaches that identify symbolic expression in the practice and idea of violence. In particular, I question interpretations of warfare that regard this activity in purely instrumental/material terms, and seek to bring the study of organised violence into the orbit of other social phenomena of the early medieval period (assembly, execution, burial, religious practice etc) that are seen as imparting and deriving meaning from their landscape contexts . By focussing on the description of battlefield locations in a comprehensive survey of historical sources, I seek to identify patterns in the types of landscape considered appropriate to warfare. In doing so, I am less concerned with whether locations can be identified (or even the historicity of the events themselves) than with how landscapes of warfare were imagined in different times and places; the association of battle with specific landscape types has the potential to reveal much about how these societies responded to and constructed their environments, and how violence was conceptualised in relation to place.

Funding organisation

  • AHRC


 Educational background

  • BA, History with History of Art, UCL 2002
  • MA, Cultural Heritage Studies, UCL 2007


Curating the Middle Ages (a review of the panel discussion at King’s College London), Society for Medieval Archaeology Newsletter (Spring 2010)

Alfred's Wars: Sources and Interpretations of Anglo-Saxon Warfare in the Viking Age, R. Lavelle (Review), Medieval Archaeology 54 (2011)

Viking Warfare (I.P.Stephenson), Saga Book of the Viking Society for Northern Research (2012 [forthcoming])


Williams, T.J.T. (2011). Editorial: PIA at 21 and the Human Remains Crisis, Papers from the Institute of Archaeology 21, 1-4. Williams, T.J.T. (in press). The Mint at Wallingford, Yorkshire Numismatist 4

Williams, T.J.T. (in press). A Blaze in the Northern Sky: Black Metal and Crimes against Culture, Public Archaeology 11

Book Chapters:

Williams, T.J.T. (forthcoming). ‘Repossessing the Place of Slaughter: The Danish Impact on the Late Saxon Idea of War.’ In: R.Lavelle and S.Roffey (eds.) Danes in Wessex: The Scandinavian Impact on Southern England, c.800-c.1100, Winchester University Press.

Williams, G. and Williams, T.J.T. (forthcoming). In: N. Christie (ed.) (forthcoming ‘Wallingford - Burh to Borough’ research project monograph).

Williams, T.J.T. (in prep.). ‘Wolves Beyond the Border: Confronting the Bestial in Anglo-Saxon Warfare’ In: M.Bintley and T.J.T.Williams (eds.) Beasts in the Anglo-Saxon World

Edited Volumes:

Williams, T.J.T. (ed.) (2011) Papers from the Institute of Archaeology, Volume 21.

Bintley, M. and Williams, T.J.T. (ed.) (in prep.) Beasts in the Anglo-Saxon World

Conference presentations:

An Uproar on the Earth: Meaningful Landscapes in the Warfare of Early Medieval Britain, Early Medieval Archaeology Student Symposium (EMASS) 2011 (Glasgow), Apr 2011.

Wolves Beyond the Border: Confronting the Bestial in Anglo-Saxon Warfare, Beasts in the Anglo-Saxon World (UCL), June 2011.

Coins in Context: Minting in the Borough of Wallingford, International Medieval Congress (IMC) 2011 (Leeds), July 2011.

Heads You Lose: Decapitation, Domination and Display in Anglo-Saxon England, Society for Medieval Archaeology Post-graduate Colloquium 2011 (Cambridge), Oct 2011.

Sleeping Kings and Wild Riders: Supernatural Warfare in the Anglo-Saxon Landscape, Popular Antiquities: Folklore and Archaeology (UCL), Oct 2011.

Re-possessing the Place of Slaughter: the Danish Impact on the Late Saxon Idea of War, The Danes in Wessex (Winchester), Sept 2011


Landscapes of Ritual Warfare in Early Medieval Britain, presented at Society for Medieval Archaeology Post-graduate Colloquium, Feb 2010, and

(title as above), Power and Place in Later Roman and Early Medieval Europe, Nov 2011

Conferences and meetings organised:

Folkmoot: A Meeting of the Medieval Research Student of UCL and Cambridge (with Michael Shapland). Institute of Archaeology, UCL, November 2009.

Beasts in the Anglo-Saxon World (with Dr. Mike Bintley). Institute of Archaeology, UCL, 11-12 June, 2011.

Early Medieval Archaeology Student Symposium (EMASS) 2012 (with Martin Locker). Institute of Archaeology, UCL, 14-16 May, 2012.

Groups established:

UCLEMICS (UCL Early Medieval Interdisciplinary Conference Series; with Dr. Mike Bintley, Michael Shapland, Martin Locker and Eric Lacey)

  • Wansdyke to Wodnesdene
  • ‘Seofan beorgas’: the battlefield at the Kennet

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