Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 December 2013
In the second quarter of the tenth century the kings of England were still developing the ways and means by which they would organize and administrate the former kingdoms of Wessex, Mercia, Northumbria and the areas of the Danelaw not separately, but jointly. As one scholar has noted of the period, echoing no doubt many others, ‘We should dearly like to know, but do not, how far these areas had been integrated within the machinery of West Saxon government.’ This essay does not claim to have an answer to this ambiguity, but it would like to consider how kings might have gone about the process of achieving such integration. Kings Edward the Elder (899–924) and Athelstan (924–39) laid much of the groundwork, and this process continued under King Edmund (939–46) and his successors; but Edmund has not received a comparable amount of attention from historians. This essay will raise questions and address some seemingly overlooked points of what could be termed King Edmund's administrative policies. Examination of that king's legislation, it will be argued, is one of the ways forward. The kings of England in the tenth century were busily trying to boost their perceived importance, as well as making sure that their image was supported by actual power. Historians are familiar with the many symbols of royal authority: legislation, crowns, coins, and patronage are but a few examples; but would do well to remember that people – both individuals and the positions they held – were also powerful symbols of royal authority.