Daily Life in Arthurian Britain

by Deborah J. Shepherd


King Arthur and his knights of the round table are more myth than reality, but like all myths, the Arthurian legend grew from seeds of actual events. The popularity of the Arthurian stories among the remaining British after the Germanic influx was likely because of the cultural vindication these stories offered to a people who had been marginalized.

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August 2013


Pages 314
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics World History/Culture

This book surveys current archaeological and historical thinking about the dimly understood characteristics of daily life in Great Britain during the fifth and sixth centuries.

Arthurian legends are immensely popular and well known despite the lack of reliable documentation about this time period in Britain. As a result, historians depend upon archaeologists to accurately describe life during these two centuries of turmoil when Britons suffered displacement by Germanic immigrants.

Daily Life in Arthurian Britain examines cultural change in Britain through the fifth and sixth centuries—anachronistically known as The Dark Ages—with a focus on the fate of Romano-British culture, demographic change in the northern and western border lands, and the impact of the Germanic immigrants later known as the Anglo-Saxons. The book coalesces many threads of current knowledge and opinion from leading historians and archaeologists, describing household composition, rural and urban organization, food production, architecture, fashion, trades and occupations, social classes, education, political organization, warfare, and religion in Arthurian times. The few available documentary sources are analyzed for the cultural and historical value of their information.


  • Presents maps and illustrations of Britain during the relevant time periods
  • Includes a bibliography of major print and quality internet resources accessible to the public
  • Provides an index of key concepts, sites, historic persons, events, and materials
  • Contains an appendix on the nature of archaeological evidence


  • Covers two centuries of British history for which only fragments of historical documentation exist
  • Demonstrates how archaeological finds reveal the realities of past lives
  • Describes the times of strife between Britons and Anglo-Saxons that serve as the foundation of Arthurian legend
  • Interprets and makes accessible to the general public the major archaeological discoveries of this ancient time period
  • Serves as a perfect complement to medieval literature courses
Series Description

Daily Life

What was life really like for ordinary people in other cultures throughout history? How did they raise their children? What did they do for fun? From sexual mores in ancient Egypt to resistance music in modern Latin America, and from the fashion sense of the Mongols to the importance of film in modern India, the world comes alive in the indispensable hands-on volumes of this award-winning series. A truly interdisciplinary resource, the Daily Life series covers arts; religion; food; literature; language; romance; rites of passage and coming of age; marriage customs; social and government structure; sickness and cures; warfare; sports and games; holidays; festivals; and more. With direct ties to the curriculum and supported by the most current research, these authoritative volumes are organized in an accessible narrative chapter format, and supplemented with photos, maps, and other ready-reference materials, Daily Life volumes are ideal sources for general readers and students of world history, United States history, social studies, anthropology, religion, literature, arts, and more.

Each volume provides:
  • An exploration of complex eras in history on a level accessible to students and general readers
  • Authoritative coverage stemming from the most current scholarship and recent discoveries
  • A focus on social rather than political history in key curricular areas, providing an in-depth understanding of the nuts and bolts of daily life
  • Interactive, exciting details such as recipes, sheet music, rules for games, song lyrics, and more

Author Info

Deborah J. Shepherd, PhD, is instructor of anthropology and archaeology at Anoka-Ramsey Community College in Coon Rapids, MN and postdoctoral associate at the Center for Medieval Studies at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities Campus. Her published works include "Archaeology and the Social Meaning of Bearing Weapons in Anglo-Saxon Society before the Christian Conversion" published in Ancient Warfare and Funerary Ritual and Symbolism. She has excavated in Germany, Sweden, and at English sites in Hampshire and Cumbria. Shepherd has been awarded a Fulbright scholarship and received degrees from Harvard University, Cambridge, MA; University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA; and University of Minnesota, Twin Cities Campus.

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