Dr David Wyatt
- D. R. Wyatt Slaves and Warriors in Medieval Britain and Ireland, 800-1200 (Brill, Leiden; Boston, 2009)
Modern ideas and sensibilities have clouded historical views of slavery, perhaps, more so than any other medieval social institution. In particular, anachronistic economic rationales and notions about the progressive nature of Western European civilisation have distorted our view of slavery in the medieval context. As a result medieval historians have, all too often, focussed their efforts upon explaining the disappearance of this medieval institution rather than seeking to understand it. Yet, when historians attempt to explain away slavery in this manner they fail to realise the vital importance of the institution for the societies of medieval Britain.
The purpose of this monograph is to highlight the extreme social and cultural significance of slavery for those societies. The analysis does not focus upon economic conditions or even, necessarily, upon the plight of the slave. Rather, it concentrates upon the lifestyle, attitudes and motivations of the slave-holders and the slave-raiders in these warrior-centred communities. Through the employment of comparative anthropological perspectives this study explores the violent activities and behavioural codes of Britain’s war bands and illustrates the importance of slave raiding/holding for the establishment of power, identity and notions of manhood. In particular, it highlights how the rape, abduction and enslavement of women constituted powerfully symbolic acts for societies which equated prowess, prestige and honour very much with female protection and guardianship. Indeed, one problematic result of the continuing focus on medieval slavery as a means of economic production is that this has ensured an unhelpfully narrow research focus concentrating on male slaves involved in agricultural production. Yet, the majority of slaves in the medieval period would, most likely, have been females living and toiling in the domestic sphere and this is highly significant. Furthermore, this book highlights, more generally, how the dichotomy between slavery and freedom was fundamentally important for defining social hierarchy within the medieval communities of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
D. R. Wyatt, ‘The Significance of Slavery: Alternative Approaches to Anglo-Saxon Slavery’, Anglo-Norman Studies XXIII, (Woodbridge, 2001) pp. 328-347
D. R. Wyatt, ‘Gruffudd ap Cynan and the Hiberno-Norse World, The Welsh History Review, vol. 19, No. 4, December 1999. pp. 595-617.
Chapters in Books
D. R. Wyatt & W.D. Jones ‘Caethwas Ffoedig yng Nghaerdydd: Hanes
William A. Hall a diddymiaeth Gymreig 1861-65’ [‘A Fugitive Slave in Cardiff:
The narrative of William A. Hall and Welsh anti-slavery sentiments 1861-65’]
in Williams, D.G. (ed) Canu Caeth, (Llandysul: Gomer, 2010), pp. 39-63
D. R. Wyatt ‘Slavery, Power and Cultural Identity in the Irish Sea Region,
1066-1171’ Proceedings of the Conference Celtic-Norse relationships in the
Irish Sea in the middle ages 800-1200, Centre for Viking and Medieval Nordic
Studies, Oslo (Brill, forthcoming)
D. R. Wyatt ‘Owain ap Cadwgan – the forgotten firebrand’ in Bowen, H.V (ed.) Heroes and Villains in Welsh History (Llandysul: Gomer, 2011), pp. 29-36
Reviews and other items
D. R. Wyatt ‘Slavery’ in Rogers, Clifford J. et al (eds.) The Oxford
Encyclopedia of medieval warfare and military technology(New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), pp. 274-5
D.R. Wyatt, ‘Review of John R. Davies The Book of Llandaf and the Norman Church in Wales’ (Woodbridge, 2003), Albion, vol. 36, no. 4, Winter 2005, pp.
D. R. Wyatt ‘Owain ap Cadwgan – the forgotten firebrand’, The Western Mail, March 22nd 2011 also available in Bowen, H.V (ed.) Heroes and Villains in Welsh History (Llandysul: Gomer, 2011), pp. 29-36 and online at:
D.R. Wyatt ‘Aberlleiniog Castle, Anglesey: Forgotten Battleground of the Norse and the Normans’ The Western Mail, March 26th 2012 available online at: