Discussions about past people require in-depth reflections on the present. The fact that histories necessarily result from selections, re-ordering, interpretations, and expositions of events implies that no history can ever be a mere description of objective truths. They always convey messages or narratives that try to make sense of the past. This does not mean that historical truths do not exist and cannot be reconstructed, but that the ways they are presented always depend on subjective points of view.
Efforts in tracing direct lineages between past and present people to legitimise privileges is anachronistic and dangerous. Tragic examples are the historical manipulations around Romans, Germans, Aryans, Lombards, Anglo-Saxons, Gauls, etc. that served nationalist and racist propagandas in 19th – 20th century Europe. These mechanisms were based on the false assumption that genetics and what is perceived as the “character” of a population are somehow interrelated.
Such essentialist views overlook the complexity of historical events over centuries of mobility, migrations, trades, wars, and social, economic and political changes. Awareness of unavoidable bias is essential. Bede’s authorship of the “Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum” is an historical truth. However, to say that he wrote a history of the English people, of the English nation, of the Church of England, of the Anglo-Saxon or Anglian Church, etc. depends on subjective choices.
The three (re)constructed buildings and early medieval Northumbria | Five languages | Local groups | The past in the present | Anglo-Saxonism | The three buildings and their significance | The sites of the (re)constructed buildings | “Germanic” vs “Romano-British” | Early medieval timber buildings in Britain | (Ex)perimental reconstructions