The British museum has just made public a tremendous Viking hoard which will be on show at the museum in London and in York. The hoard was found in a field in Harrogate. As the BBC report points out, one of the coins has been dated to the reign of Athelstan, specifically to the year 927-8.
Now that’s interesting. If you’re a regular reader of BBC History Magazine, you’ll perhaps recalll our May 2009 issue, where Michael Wood, doyen of TV history and an expert on the Anglo-Saxon period, wrote a piece explaining how 927AD was the year when Athelstan, possibly the most unheralded of English kings, ‘made England’. In his words, it was in 927 that ‘Athelstan overran Northumbria, captured York, and called the northern British kings to a pact of mutual peace and protection’.
I think it would be fair to say that Michael is an Athelstan enthusiast and it’s his opinion that it was this king who made England into a country, building on the achievements of his father Edward and his grandfather Alfred the Great. So, if the date is correct, then that coin dates to the very time that Athelstan was advancing into the Viking north, in the year that Michael Wood sees as the most pivotal in British history.
So, like I say, a very interesting find, and a glittery one at that. Michael wrote that piece for us in the May issue as an introduction to a book we published that month called The Great Turning Points in British History where we gathered together the views of 20 leading historians on what were the key years in British history. That’s probably another blog post entirely, but what do you think, do you reckon 927 ranks up with 1066 and 1588 as one of the key years in the national story? Let’s hear your views on the forum