Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




My dissertation investigates the value of `standards' and `standardization' as tools for historians to interpret social and political dynamics in the Middle Ages. To date, medieval scholarship has utilized these concepts in a relatively unsophisticated manner; standardization has been taken to simply mean the imposition of uniformity. My dissertation uses the work of contemporary engineers and sociologists to problematize this understanding of standardization. I argue that the term, properly employed, signifies a process of consensus, of horizontal rather than hierarchical relationships and of ongoing revision. Further, I contend that standardization is a means and not an end, and that those who create and disseminate standards allow for a substantial degree of diversity, provided the diverse means are all directed at the same end.

Anglo-Saxon England of the tenth and eleventh centuries serves as a proving ground for this conception of standardization. As a period that witnessed the coalescing of a single kingdom, uniting a number of hitherto distinct Germanic and Celtic cultures, it would appear to present a number of opportunities to apply the principles I have adduced. I focus on three such subjects. The first is the realm's coinage. Through an examination of single finds and hoards, as well as the extant legislation, I demonstrate that the creation of a single coinage, accepted throughout the kingdom, was the result not of any single

initiative, but an evolution over the course of generations. Similarly, in the case of legal texts, I trace a process in which both the form and content of older codes was continually updated to the current prevailing standard. Finally, my examination of attempts to regulate the behavior of monks reveals not a desire to impose an invariable regimen, but a negotiated process that embraced a variety of traditions, old and new, foreign and domestic.

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Creative Commons License
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