Robin S. Oggins

title.none: Hagen, Anglo-Saxon Food and Drink (Robin S. Oggins)

identifier.other: baj9928.0710.002 07.10.02

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Robin S. Oggins, Binghamton University,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2007

identifier.citation: Hagen, Ann. Anglo-Saxon Food and Drink: Production, Processing, Distribution and Consumption. Hockwold-cum-Wilton: Anglo-Saxon Books, 2006. Pp. 507. $35.00 1-898281-41-6. ISBN: .

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 07.10.02

Hagen, Ann. Anglo-Saxon Food and Drink: Production, Processing, Distribution and Consumption. Hockwold-cum-Wilton: Anglo-Saxon Books, 2006. Pp. 507. $35.00 1-898281-41-6. ISBN: .

Reviewed by:

Robin S. Oggins
Binghamton University

Anglo-Saxon Food and Drink: Production, Processing, Distribution and Consumption is an amalgamation of the author's two earlier books: A Handbook of Anglo-Saxon Food: Processing and Consumption, published in 1992; and A Second Handbook of Anglo- Saxon Food and Drink: Production and Distribution, published in 1995. There have been some changes. The page size is larger, the binding better, footnotes are at the bottoms of pages instead of at the ends of sections, there is now a single index and bibliography, and some sections of the text have been put in a different order. However the words of the text are, as far as I can see, exactly the same as in the two preceding books. The bibliography is also largely unchanged. Only eleven of the more than 450 works cited were published in the 1990s: one in 1996, another in 1994, the other nine between 1990 and 1992. Of the eleven, only four are cited in the notes [1]. In her introduction the author states, "I have...taken the end of December 1986 as the cut-off point for a close study of archaeological reports" (17). Essentially this is a fifteen- to twenty-year-old work.

The book is organized in the four main sections of its subtitle with a brief over all conclusion. The section on Food Production is arranged by type of food (Cereal Crops; Vegetables, Herbs, and Fungi; etc.), with further sub-sections on Imported Food, Tabooed Foods, Provision of a Water Supply, and Fermented Drinks. Processing includes Drying, Milling, and Bread Making; Dairying; Butchery; Preservation and Storage; and Methods of Cooking. Distribution has sub-sections on Food and Administration, Measures, Theft, Food Supply for Monastic Communities and Religious Households, The Food Supply in Towns, Provision of Food away from Home, and Hospitality and Charity. Finally Consumption covers Meals, Fasting, Feasting, Special Regimens, Food Shortages and Deficiency Diseases, and Adulteration: Damage Caused by Dietary Elements. Most of the sub-sections are broken down still further and the range of topics covered is extensive. There are sub-sub-sections on The Age of Death (of cattle), Sheep in Legal Documents, Goats as a Source of Meat, the Appearance of Pigs, The Anglo-Saxon View of Travel, Minstrels, and a table of Famine Years--to name only a few. It is fair to say that if a topic has even a tangential relationship to Anglo-Saxon food and drink the author has touched on it.

The book provides an enormous amount of information, but the author's method of collection is open to question. Hagen took documentary references from Bosworth and Toller's Anglo-Saxon Dictionary and its Supplements, "supplemented on occasion by . . . Latin manuscripts" (15) and cited the material found using printed versions. However the printed versions are not always taken from originals. Her Latin references, for example, are frequently to Whitelock's and Robertson's translations, often with little or no indication as to what their source was. Instead of citing Domesday Book directly she uses Thomas Hinde's 1985 overview. She uses the 1828 edition of Sharon Turner's History of the Anglo-Saxons as a source and on several occasions reproduces passages almost word for word without quotation marks (144, 174, 199)--a practice followed for other authors as well. She does provide the references to Turner, but not to Turner's sources. Her work then is not based on a comprehensive survey of Anglo-Saxon sources, but is a selection from some primary sources and from secondary works.

The author's bibliography and her method of citation also have shortcomings. Sometimes she lists places of publication, sometimes only the publisher. On occasion she omits titles of articles, volume numbers of journals, page numbers of articles, and original publication dates of reprints. A specific example of haphazard citation is provided by the Clarkes. On page 26 she cites "Clarke, forthcoming," and on page 96 "Clarke, unpub." The bibliography lists "Clarke, H. (1986-7) in A. Williams, ed. Agriculture in Late Anglo- Saxon England." On page 104 is a citation to "Clarke Appendix to Alecto edition of Domesday," no page reference is given and the Alecto edition is listed in the bibliography under A. Williams. On page 170 is a reference to "Clarke 1960, 28," but there is nothing in the bibliography that corresponds. The same, incidentally, is true of the reference to "Cloke 1989, 39" on page 452. On page 30 Hagen cites Whitelock's English Historical Documents in a reference to the Rectitudines Singularum Personarum. The proper work is Douglas and Greenaway's volume in the same series, and the page number is wrong. "MacNeill" and Gamer should be McNeill; M. Seebohm's book's correct title is The Evolution of the English Farm, not the British, the version used is the revised second (not noted) edition, and the author is female, not male (105); and how did J. Drummond manage to lose his knighthood between the 1939 and 1958 editions of The Englishman's Food?

A spot check of three randomly-selected works cited turns up errors as well. Of Hagen's five references to Oschinsky two are not in the places cited (note 6 on page 70 and note 1 on page 264). Fifteen of forty-eight references to Seebohm 1952 are not where they are claimed to be, and one of the other references (Hagen's page 105) should be to Thrupp as cited by Seebohm, not to Seebohm. On page 177 note 6 Hagen's source Seebohm is writing about beechmast and acorns, not about walnuts. On page 107 the correct name is Walter of Henley, not William. Of the twenty-four references Hagen makes to Trow-Smith 1957, page numbers are not provided for nineteen and two of the remaining five (note 3 on page 83 and note 9 on page 278) are not where cited. There are also two citations to a Trow-Smith 1952, a work which does not appear in the bibliography.

Hagen indulges in a good deal of speculation. One frequently finds such phrases as "may have been," "it is likely," "might be," "probably," and "there is a possibility." In the absence of Anglo- Saxon information she often uses analogues from later eras--analogues are not always persuasive or well chosen. She states that "the earliest reference to pheasant" is from "about 1177" (140-41). The Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources lists three references in Anglo-Saxon glossaries (sv. phasianus). Hagen then goes on to state "It [the pheasant] seems to have remained scarce: a feast for King Richard in 1387 had four fesauntes as against xii dozen partrych" (141). But for Christmas 1240 Henry III ordered officials to send him 312 pheasants [2]. On page 363 Hagen writes "Perhaps it was quite usual [presumably in Anglo- Saxon England] to contemplate a long day's walking without food. As late as 1594 when Moryson was on the road from Genoa to Milan, he set off on a 22-mile leg, and only received food by chance from a begging friar whom he met." And what are we to make of her statement, "Perhaps a number of people owned at least one sheep..." (96)?

But despite the book's shortcomings, there is nothing else like it. Anyone looking for an over view of Anglo-Saxon diet will have to start here. The book is fine for people seeking casual information. Others can use it as a limited finding tool. Unfortunately the work is not reliable enough for scholars to use directly.

1. One of the seven items cited in the bibliography but not in the notes is Debby Banham's important PhD dissertation, "The Knowledge and Uses of Food Plants in Anglo-Saxon England." Hagen does not appear to have actually used Banham's work: see their respective sections on rye and on the shape of Anglo-Saxon loaves of bread.

2. Robin S. Oggins, "Game in the Medieval English Diet," Studies in Medieval and Renaissance History, 3rd ser., 4, (2007), forthcoming.