By Jeremy Black (auth.)
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Extra resources for A History of the British Isles
Coins, proto-towns and 'states' with monarchical patterns of government existed in southern England, but not in the north or in Wales. In the latter two, relatively low population levels and a poorly developed agricultural base ensured that there was only a small surplus of wealth for taxation and thus only a limited ability to support political and governmental activity. Most of late-IronAge Wales, for example, has left no trace of pottery. In contrast, southern England was linked in this period to nearby areas of the Continent: to northern Gaul (France) and the Low Countries.
THE SPREAD OF CHRISTIANITY The replacement of the religious pluralism of Roman and postRoman Britain by Christianity was to align the British Isles culturally far more closely with the Continent. A mission from Pope Gregory the Great, under Augustine, came in 597 to Canterbury, the capital of Kent, and had some success in the south-east, but it was the Irish Church that was the base for the conversion of much of England. Christian missionaries came to Scotland from Ireland with the Scots. Although the Irish Church had a system of bishoprics, the numerous monasteries, such as Armagh and Clonmacnois, were more important.
Both as a result of the 1066 campaign and as a consequence of the suppression of subsequent rebellions, there had been a social revolution at the level of the elite. This had had far less effect at the level of the bulk of the population. Their life continued to be dominated by the pressures of agricultural life and the rhythms of a harsh demographic regime. Domesday revealed the extent to which the detailed nature of local environments influenced settlement patterns and economic activities. Thus, the silts and peat fens in the south-east of Lincolnshire were little settled: the marshland attracted few bar salt makers.