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RA5a: Structure,environment and staffing policy

The Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic exists to promote the study of the history, culture, languages and literatures of the British Isles, Brittany and Scandinavia in the earlier Middle Ages (fifth to twelfth century). The ethos which animates the Department’s activities is that the approach to this subject, whether in teaching or in research, should be cross-cultural, interdisciplinary, and source-based. The outlook is broad, inviting comparison of different cultures and examination of the interaction between them; but special importance is attached, at the same time, to the acquisition of the expertise and skills necessary for the study of surviving manuscripts and to the informed interpretation of the documentary, liturgical and literary texts which they contain. Knowledge and understanding of historical background, context and development, and of relevant languages and literatures, are naturally fundamental; the requisite skills include philology and onomastics as well as palaeography, diplomatic, and textual criticism.

The senior members of the Department are proficient in a range of different yet complementary disciplines, and are united in their commitment to the subject as conceived in these terms. The Department thus sustains a well-integrated research culture, with a strong sense of purpose and direction. Staff are very well supported in their independent and collective activities by the exceptional resources for academic research available in Cambridge. The University maintains a high profile in all areas of scholarship, attracting visitors and speakers from throughout the world, and the Department benefits naturally as a result. At the same time, the Department’s small size, as a discrete unit within the much larger Faculty of English (UoA 50), generates a strong sense of communal identity and ensures that its senior members, often working together on collaborative or on interrelated projects, inspire and encourage each other.

Research Structure and Environment

3.40.21 (a) The basic resources available for academic research in Cambridge are outstanding. The University Library is a national deposit library, holding over 5 million books and pamphlets and 1.2 million periodicals, as well as a major collection of medieval manuscripts, and giving access to the full range of electronic research aids. The fact that so much of the UL stock is kept on open stacks, and that senior members of the University (as well as graduate students) have borrowing rights, greatly enhances its effectiveness for research purposes. The Departmental Library, housed within the Library of the Faculty of English, holds about 6,000 books and periodicals. Every college has its own library, serving the needs of its own members; several of these (most notably Corpus Christi College and Trinity College) have significant holdings of medieval manuscripts. The Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology has an important collection of Anglo-Saxon artefacts (mainly of the sixth and seventh centuries), and the Department of Coins and Medals in the Fitzwilliam Museum has one of the best collections of Celtic, Anglo-Saxon and medieval European coins in the world. These resources are readily accessible for teaching as well as research.

The Department is fully integrated for administrative and other purposes with the Faculty of English and is thus able to take advantage of the facilities of a major faculty within the University. Every member of staff is provided with a desktop computer (and appropriate software), replaced on a rolling basis; all offices in the Faculty building and many in colleges now have ethernet connections. The computing room in the Faculty building is equipped with several PCs, a scanner, and a high-specification printer capable of producing publication-standard illustrations. Photocopying and audio-visual facilities have been upgraded. In 1998 a computer officer was appointed (jointly with another faculty) to provide technical support to staff and graduate students. Most graduate students have ready access to desktop computers in their respective colleges, and all have access to Faculty-owned laptops for use on visits to archive collections and libraries. The Department has maintained its own website* since 1997, for the dissemination of information on all aspects of the Department’s activities.
* (
www.asnc.cam.ac.uk)

Staff are eligible for research expenses from the University’s Travel Fund and (in most cases) from their respective college funds. Trust funds at University level, including the H. M. Chadwick Fund and the Scandinavian Studies Fund, provide further support for research, attendance at conferences, and publication expenses. The Isaac Newton Trust (Trinity College) provides scholarships and small grants in support of graduate students. In 1997 the Faculty established the part-time post of Conference Organiser (at Research Associate level) to collate and disseminate information about conferences and scholarly meetings to staff and graduate students and to provide assistance in the preparation of such meetings.

University policy provides for sabbatical leave at the rate of one term for every six terms worked. To obtain leave, staff must have their programme of research approved by the Faculty Board; they must also submit a report on their progress at the end of the leave. Information concerning external sources of funding for research leave, from both UK and international bodies, is made available to staff via e-mail and the web, and staff are encouraged to apply.

The research environment for all the Humanities in Cambridge will be considerably enhanced by the establishment of the new Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities (CRASSH) from January 2001. The aim of the Centre will be to supplement and strengthen the existing research culture across the arts, humanities, and social sciences in the university. It will provide resources and facilities for research projects by both groups and individuals, as well as extending patterns of national and international collaboration.

Although well served for many years by an Edwardian building at 9 West Road, the Faculty of English and its associated institutions (the Research Centre for English and Applied Linguistics, and the Department of ASNC) remain in urgent need of better accommodation. In 1999 the Faculty launched ‘Cambridge English 2000’, a major fund-raising initiative of its own, led by Professor Dame Gillian Beer. Approximately £7.7m has now been raised from this and other sources. Architects have been appointed, the design process in underway, and discussions with planners are well advanced. The projected building will make a major contribution to both the teaching and research activities of the Faculty, providing, in addition to the usual facilities, an integrated library, seminar rooms, improved facilities for graduate students, and enhanced IT provision. It is hoped that work on the new building will begin in late 2002.

3.40.21 (b, c) The Department is not large enough to necessitate division into formal research groups and might indeed be characterised as a single research group, united in its common commitment to the study of the British Isles, Brittany and Scandinavia in the earlier middle ages.

The senior members of the Department conduct much of their research on their separate initiatives, but are able to seek guidance from each other when their respective projects intersect and overlap. Dumville (Professor) is active not only in the fields of Gaelic, Brittonic and Anglo-Saxon history, but also in Insular palaeography from the seventh to the twelfth century, Celtic literature, textual criticism, liturgy, and the history of scholarship. Keynes (Professor) works in the field of Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman history, covering the period from c. 700 to c. 1100, with extension into related aspects of Celtic and Scandinavian history; he also has an interest in changing perceptions of the Anglo-Saxon past from the twelfth century to the present day. Ní Mhaonaigh (University Lecturer) works in the field of Medieval Irish language and literature, with extension into Medieval Welsh language and literature, and into aspects of Irish and Scandinavian history; her research has focussed on the early-twelfth-century text Cogadh Gáedhel re Gallaibh (‘The War of the Gaedhil with the Gaill’), giving an account of Scandinavian invasions of Ireland. Padel (University Lecturer) works in the field of Medieval Welsh language and literature, with extension into Medieval Irish language and literature, and aspects of Cornish, Welsh and Breton history; his principal research interests lie in Cornish place-names and medieval history, and the Arthurian legend. Quinn (University Lecturer, appointed from October 2000) works in the field of Old Norse language and literature, and has interests extending into medieval literacy and Scandinavian history; she is currently preparing an electronic edition of the poem Völuspá, with extensive commentary. Syrett (Lecturer) works in the field of Scandinavian history and archaeology, with interests reaching into medieval epigraphy and Germanic philology; his major study of the medieval non-runic inscriptions of Trondheim is due to be published in 2001.

Two of the three recently-appointed members of the Department are at the outset of their academic careers. Love (University Assistant Lecturer, appointed from January 2000) works in the field of Insular Latin literature, with a special interest in the development of hagiography (both in Latin and in Old English), and thus in many aspects of ecclesiastical history. Before her appointment, she was engaged as Research Associate on the Fontes Anglo-Saxonici project, identifying the earlier written sources used by authors of Anglo-Latin texts, and making major contributions to the Fontes database (available online on the project website). Two substantial works (her survey of the development of Anglo-Latin hagiography, and her edition of the Lives of the saints of Ely Abbey) are due to be published in 2001; she has also collaborated with Keynes on the history of the church of Sherborne (due to be published in 2001). Dance (University Assistant Lecturer, appointed from January 2001) works in the field of Old English language and literature, with a special interest in the impact which speakers of Scandinavian languages had on the development of the English language during the Anglo-Saxon period. His first book, on the influence of Old Norse as represented by a group of texts from the south-west Midlands, is also due to be published in 2001.

3.40.21 (d, e) All research-active members of the Department, including staff, research fellows, visiting scholars, and graduate students, are able to take advantage of the resources mentioned above (3.40.21 (a)). All bring their special interests and expertise to bear on the Department’s collective deliberations, and the Department functions, in that sense, as an interdisciplinary research group. Collective and collaborative research activity is nurtured and fostered in various ways:

• The MPhil Seminar (involving MPhil students and senior members) meets weekly in the Michaelmas Term (‘Introduction to Scholarly Methods’) and weekly in the Lent Term (‘Essential Texts’).

Graduate Presentations, at which second-year PhD students give formal papers on aspects of their current research, are held twice a term in the Michaelmas and Lent Terms.

• The Graduate Seminar, at which PhD students offer papers on a theme selected by general agreement in the previous year, meets weekly in the Easter Term. Papers delivered and discussed at meetings in the Easter Term 2000, on ‘Curses and Afflictions’, will be published in the journal Responsio, due to make its first appearance in the Easter Term 2001; the theme for the seminar in 2001 is ‘Contracts’.

• The Departmental Lecture Series comprises occasional lectures organised two or three times a term, given by speakers from outside Cambridge (frequently overseas) who are generally visiting the University for purposes of their own. In the past two years, papers have been given by speakers from the universities of Bonn, Odense, Sydney, Göttingen, Uppsala, Western Michigan (Kalamazoo), Exeter, Oslo, Wales at Aberystwyth, and the National University of Ireland at Cork, on subjects ranging from Welsh hagiography to Norwegian rune-stones.

• The Cambridge Colloquium in Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic (CCASNC) is a day-long symposium on a particular theme, organised by the graduate students. The meeting takes place in the Easter Term, and comprises a keynote paper by an invited speaker, followed by short papers given by the students themselves. The subject of the first Colloquium (25 May 2000) was ‘Constructing the Past in the Early Middle Ages’; selected proceedings were published in the first volume of CCASNC’s journal Quaestio (2000) [ISSN 1471-3314]. The subject of the second colloquium (May 2001) is ‘Boundaries in the Early Middle Ages’; the invited speaker (Prof. K. O’B. O’Keeffe) is coming from the University of Notre Dame, IN, USA.

The Department sponsors two annual lecture series, attracting distinguished speakers to Cambridge for the occasion. The Chadwick Memorial Lecture, instituted in 1990, commemorates H. M. Chadwick (Elrington and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon 1912–41). Recent speakers have included Dr M. Haycock (Aberystwyth), Prof. D. Scragg (Manchester), Prof. P. and Dr U. Dronke (Cambridge), Mr D. Huws (Cardiff), and Prof. P. Sawyer (Trondheim). The Quiggin Lecture on the Sources of Mediaeval Gaelic History, instituted in 1993, commemorates E. C. Quiggin (1875–1920), who was the first teacher of Celtic in the University of Cambridge. Recent speakers have included Prof. T. Charles-Edwards (Oxford) and Prof. J. Hines (Cardiff).

All members of staff are involved in collaborative projects, whether with one or more of their colleagues in the Department, or with colleagues elsewhere; and all participate in a wide range of interdisciplinary activities within the University. Links with the Faculties of English, History, and Modern and Medieval Languages are especially close. Ní Mhaonaigh, Padel and Dumville are involved, with departmental research students working in the field of Celtic studies, in annual gatherings with their counterparts in the University in Oxford, to encourage an exchange of ideas between students and staff at both institutions. Dance is involved in similar gatherings for staff and students working in the field of Old English language and literature; he also participated in a colloquium on ‘Teaching Old English’, held at Trinity College, Cambridge, in September 1999, which attracted several young scholars from universities elsewhere in the country. Each year the Department welcomes several Visiting Scholars or Research Associates into its research environment and encourages them to participate in departmental activities. The two major research projects with a significant presence in the Department were set up from the outset as collaborative enterprises. The Fontes Anglo-Saxonici project has a Research Associate based in the Department; the project has other bases in Oxford and Manchester. The ‘Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England’ (PASE) also has a Research Associate based in the Department, working in association with others in the Department of History and in the Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King’s College, London. The Department is also represented on numerous other projects of this kind: for example, the British Academy / Royal Historical Society Joint Committee on Anglo-Saxon Charters (Dumville, Keynes); the Survey of English Place-Names (Padel, Keynes); the International Skaldic Editing Project (Quinn); the Toronto Dictionary of Old English (Keynes); and the Compendium Auctorum Latinorum Medii Aevi (500–1500) (Love).

3.40.21 (g). The nature of the Department’s work affords limited opportunities for the development of formal relationships with industry and commerce, but the Department recognises the importance of maintaining a public profile and of providing authoritative guidance in the field whenever and by whomsoever it is sought. Outreach of this kind takes various forms. Members of the Department have made substantial contributions to standard reference works such as the New Dictionary of National Biography, the Oxford Companion to Irish History, the Encyclopaedia of Ireland, and the Royal Irish Academy Dictionary of Irish Biography. The Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Anglo-Saxon England (1999) involved several members or former members of the Department, whether as co-editors (Lapidge, Keynes) or as contributors (Keynes, Lapidge, Love, Ní Mhaonaigh, Orchard, Padel). Dance served as adviser on pronunciation of Old English for The Routes of English (Radio 4, January 2000); Keynes gave a broadcast on the cult of King Alfred the Great (Radio 3, June 2000); and Ní Mhaonaigh contributed to the Ancient Ark series (Radio 4, August and September 2000).

The Department seeks to advertise its existence and expertise through its website* which, though directed in particular towards its students, is also intended to serve a wider purpose. Staff respond to enquiries of all kinds, and the range of Departmental publications, including the two lecture series and ‘ASNC Guides, Texts, and Studies’, is made available to all.
* (www.asnc.cam.ac.uk)

Staffing policy

3.40.22 (a) All staff are contractually obliged to pursue research and are expected to publish internationally recognised scholarship. Appointments are made from very strong fields of applicants: candidates for three posts advertised in 1999–2000 were drawn from the British Isles, Germany, the United States of America, and Australia; and the process attaches particular weight to research achievement and potential. Once in post, members of staff are monitored in the formal Appraisal system, enabling them to discuss work in progress, research strategy, publication opportunities, conferences and other forms of activity with their designated Appraiser. Significant achievement in research is the principal element in the system of personal promotion to Reader and Professor, processes which involve the judgement of external, and frequently international, assessors. (Orchard, who left the Department in 2000 to take up a Chair elsewhere, had been promoted to Reader in 1999.) Research achievement is also an essential element in the process of appointment to the new post of Senior Lecturer, created by the University in 2000.

3.40.22 (b, c) Younger or new researchers are encouraged and given every opportunity to develop their own research, and are fully integrated from the outset into the supportive research culture of the Department (above, 3.40.21 (d, e); see also below, 3.40.23 (e)). The research activities of postgraduate students are monitored and encouraged by their respective supervisors, and by the Degree Committee of English; the Degree Committee ensures that candidates for degrees are examined fairly by internal and external examiners.

3.40.22 (d) There has been considerable movement of staff during the assessment period, especially in 1999–2000. Professor Lapidge took up a Chair at Notre Dame, USA, in January 1999, and was replaced by Love (UAL) from January 2000; Lapidge’s Cambridge Chair, and the Headship of the Department, passed to Keynes. Mr Bibire took early retirement in July 1999, and was replaced by Quinn (UL) from October 2000. Dr Orchard took up a Chair at Toronto, Canada, in September 2000, and was replaced by Dance (UAL) from January 2001. These movements have naturally affected the strength and coherence of research activity within the Department. All three former members of staff (Lapidge, Bibire and Orchard) had contributed widely across the field and worked in close alliance with other members of the Department; Lapidge and Orchard, in particular, had outstanding records of publication, including five substantial books published in the period 1994–2000. The newly-appointed members of staff (Quinn, Love, Dance), taking up office at different times in 2000–1, have assumed new teaching responsibilities within the Department and will therefore need some time to settle down in their new academic environment; but all of them have proven track records and are already making significant contributions to the Department’s research culture.

3.40.22 (e) Category C. One of the two persons returned under Category C (Page) was formerly a Professor in the Department; he has continued in retirement to be closely involved in the Department’s activities and has published numerous research articles, notably on Anglo-Saxon runic inscriptions. The other person returned under Category C (Blackburn) is Keeper of Coins and Medals at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, and an Honorary Research Associate of the Department. The Department enjoys a particularly close relationship with the Museum and regularly holds numismatic classes in the Coin Room. Blackburn himself has long been the driving force behind the Sylloge of Coins of the British Isles (British Academy), which publishes collections of Ancient British, Anglo-Saxon, Hiberno-Scandinavian and Danish coinage, and which organises research conferences. He is also the Honorary Secretary of the Sylloge steering committee, of which Keynes is a member; he has a number of other research projects, funded from external sources (3.40.28). Blackburn and Keynes have collaborated closely in study of the coinage of ninth-century England. One of Blackburn’s Research Associates (Dr S. M. Miller), who has been instrumental in the development of the numismatic databases on the Museum’s website, was formerly an undergraduate and graduate student in the Department.


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Last updated 17 October 2003

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