Episode 79: Anarchy

In the years after Matilda’s return to England, the country descended into chaos and civil war. This period is known by modern historians as the Anarchy. The events were recorded by a scribe in Peterborough who wrote in an early form of Middle English. In this episode, we examine these events through the entires in the Peterborough Chronicle. We also explore several new pronoun forms which appear for the first time in these passages.

Episode 78: Under Siege

In this episode, we explore the outbreak of civil war in England as forces loyal to Matilda took up arms against King Stephen. The civil war led to a breakdown of central authority. The power vacuum was filled by local barons who constructed castles throughout the countryside. This ushered in a new era of siege warfare. We explore these events as recorded in the Peterborough Chronicle, and we examine how siege warfare influenced the English language.

Episode 77: Rival Relatives and the Land of Scots

Following the death of Henry I, the king’s nephew Stephen seized the throne and claimed the English throne before Matilda could get to England. We examine the reasons why Stephen was considered an acceptable alternative to Matilda. As soon as Stephen became king, he experienced challenges from a couple of English nobles. One of those nobles also happened to be the King of Scotland. We examine these initial challenges and explore the origin of Scots – the first version of English spoken outside of England.

Episode 76: The Gender Problem

The final continuation of the Peterborough Chronicle captured a major change in the history of the English language. That change was the loss of grammatical gender. The traditional distinctions between masculine and feminine nouns disappeared in the final few entries of the Chronicle. This development coincided with the first attempt to place a female on the English throne. In this episode, we look at the weakening of these traditional gender barriers.

Episode 75: Mixed Languages and Scrambled Eggs

In this episode, we continue our look at the gradual emergence of Middle English from the linguistic rubble left in the wake of the Norman Conquest. English remained fractured and broken, and foreign influences continued to come in. We explore the changing language of the Peterborough Chronicle. We also examine how a merchant’s failed attempt to buy some eggs shaped the history of the English language.

Episode 74: Head Cities and Home Towns

The population of England grew significantly in the centuries following the Norman Conquest of England. That development led to the growth of villages, towns and cities. During that period, London also emerged as the capital of England. In this episode, we examine these developments and explore the etymology of words associated with Medieval English settlements.

Episode 73: Possession, Power and Checkmate

In this episode, we explore the connections between possessions and power – especially political power.  No Medieval king exemplified that connection better than Henry I of England.  Henry valued his possessions, and he made sure to collect every penny that was owed to him. And speaking of possessions, this was also a period during which the English language was starting to change the way it indicated possession. We explore these linguistic developments by examining the language of the Peterborough Chronicle.

Episode 72: The Dark Ages of English

The early part of the 12th century represented the darkest days of the English language.  English writing had almost disappeared, and spoken English was divided among a variety of regional dialects that were often incomprehensible to speakers in other parts of the country.  For most prominent people in England, both Latin and French were considered to be far superior languages.  English was mocked and ridiculed.  This view even extended to Anglo-Saxon names which started to disappear during this period.  The English language that everyone knew was dying out. In parts of the country, it was already dead.  In its wake, a new English was emerging, but that new language had not yet been revealed in writing.

Map Prepared by Louis Henwood (Click Map for Larger Image)

Map Prepared by Louis Henwood (Click Map for Larger Image)

Map Prepared by Louis Henwood (Click Map for Larger Image)

Map Prepared by Louis Henwood (Click Map for Larger Image)

Episode 71: On The Hunt

In this episode, we explore the events leading to the death of William the Conqueror. And we’ll look at the reign of his son and namesake, William Rufus. The story of William’s succession is also the story of a sibling rivalry. William’s three sons fought with each other – and even with their father – for control of the Anglo-Norman kingdom. But one thing that William and all of his sons had in common was a love for hunting, and the importance of hunting is reflected in the English language which contains many words and phrases originating in the language of Medieval hunters.

Episode 70: Mind Your Manors For Pete’s Sake

For more than a century following the Norman Conquest, English writing fell out of favor. During that hiatus, French words continued to flow into English. A lot of those words were associated with the manors that dotted the English countryside where most of the peasants lived and worked. In this episode, we look at some of those French and Latin words associated with manors and peasants.  We also examine how the manorial courts were used as tool to exploit the peasants and tie them to the land.