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Seals, Coins, and the Exchange of Imagination and Images

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 December 2023

Stephen D. Church
Affiliation:
University of East Anglia
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Summary

The mutual influences and exchanges between England and the Continent – and England and Germany in particular – have been a subject of research for many years, especially since Levison's ground-breaking 1946 study on England and the Continent in the eighth century. There are also some interesting studies covering the later Anglo-Saxon and the early Anglo-Norman periods. In 2012, Andreas Bihrer argued that Anglo-German relations were both less intense and less continuous than had previously been assumed. He believed that connections between the two were occasional, consisting of random exchanges of texts, objects, ideas, and the like, rather regular and coherent. Bihrer did not include coins and seals in his analysis, but, without giving too much away, I can say that my ideas do not entirely correspond with his. In this essay I am going to examine the question of whether or not there were exchanges of images and imaginations – meaning visual elements and concepts as well as ideas – between England and Germany as can be seen in seals and coins from Lotharingia between the tenth and the early twelfth century. For pragmatic reasons, I will mostly stick to seals and coins and consult other visual media only occasionally.

Coins

I start by looking at the chances of either English coins becoming known in Lotharingia on the one hand and Lotharingian – or German coins in general – becoming known in England on the other. It is important to note that the chances of German or Lotharingian coins reaching England were a lot slimmer than those of English coins getting to Lotharingia or Germany. The paucity of German examples of coins found in an English context is due to concerted efforts on the part of the English kings to keep foreign money out of their realm. Even those coins which did reach England and survived the smelting process were often overstruck with an English type. It might therefore seem to have been difficult for the designs of German and Lotharingian coins to have any impact on English coinage. As far as the circulation of English coins in Lotharingia and Germany is concerned, we know that a lot of English coins reached the Continent. However, the impact on Lotharingia, with the exception of Frisia as its northernmost region, has been regarded as negligible by modern commentators.

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Anglo-Norman Studies XLV
Proceedings of the Battle Conference 2022
, pp. 77 - 94
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2023

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