Even the briefest stint of Googling will alert anyone browsing for the early medieval history of the British Isles to the sad fact that: while there are umpteen sources for Anglo-Saxon England (good, good), quite a few that focus on Picts and Scots (good, hooray), heaps and heaps on the ‘Celts’, which most people out there in internet-land seem to think means the inhabitants of Ireland (modified rapture on the Celt thingy, but tick, tick on Irish history), but, and you knew there would be a but, b### all for early medieval Wales.
So, I thought I would alert anyone else struggling to find information on seventh-century Wales that Ann Hagen has managed to draw out quite a lot of useful information in her tome on Anglo-Saxon Food & Drink (Anglo-Saxon Books, 2006). As she makes plain in her introduction, most of her information on food and drink in Wales has been culled from the Welsh law codes. These are clearly later than the seventh century, but all the same, I find the information very useful when putting together my fictional account. The laws of Hywel Dda are 10th century, so as early as most of the written material we have for Wales.
Gale R. Owen-Crocker has also included some very helpful information in her: Dress in Anglo-Saxon England (Manchester University press, 1986). In her chapter on men’s costume from the seventh to the ninth centuries she includes a fair bit of information on specifically Irish styles. I also really enjoyed the way she outlined regional differences in style, especially between Kent and the Anglian kingdoms and her discussion of changes in women’s dress styles during the conversion period of the seventh century. I had encountered some of this information before, on the move away from the peplos-style dress with two shoulder broaches, but never in such detail.
However, I continue to lament the absence of Welsh material. I am currently reading the marvelous book edited by Nicholas Higham and Martin Ryan on the Landscape Archaeology of Anglo-Saxon England (Boydell Press, 2010), but I have so far failed to find any information on Wales what-so-ever. I know, I know, the title should be a clue, but the two books described above had similarly discouraging titles which hide delightful surprises.
I hope I will not be disappointed by Chris Wickham’s efforts at Framing the Early Middle Ages (OUP, 2005). So far, I have only read the introduction, but he actually includes maps showing Welsh stuff, so fingers crossed …