Geography and Tribal Tradition

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Geography and Tribal Tradition

Whether people lived in one type of settlement or the other depended chiefly on two factors, those of geography and of tribal tradition. Where the land was rich and fertile, so that a small acreage was enough to keep 'a family, there would - in general - be found nucleated villages; in poor or mountainous country, or clearings made from heavy natural woodland, or in newly settled areas generally, scattered hamlets were more likely to be formed. Large-scale maps of different parts of England, such as the 1-inch Ordnance Survey, show that in general the first type is found in the South and East, the second in the North and West. But the influence of tribal tradition .cuts across that of geography; Kent is a county of hamlets, though geographically much the same as the neighbouring counties. The reason for this is that Kent was settled by the Jutes, who came from a different part of Germany from the Angles and the Saxons; and the Jutes planted in Kent the kind of settlements which they had been used to in their former home.

Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Danes, Norsemen - all the invaders of the period between the Roman withdrawal and the Norman Conquest - all had their own ways of settling on the land, their own laws of inheritance and other customs, varying more or less from one to another. For instance, among the Saxons land passed by inheritance from father to eldest son without being divided; but the Jutes seem, like the Celts, to have held to the custom which was later called Gavelkind, by which a man's land was divided among a number of co-heirs. This arrangement, of course, was bound to split up the land in the course of a few generations into very small units, and thus to bring about a very different kind of social structure. And where different peoples were close neighbours, as in the Welsh Marches, and in North-East Sussex, where Saxons met Jutes, their customs were likely to affect one another, altering their economic arrangements to an intermediate type.

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ENGLAND at the time of the Norman Conquest probably had two million inhabitants or less, almost all of them living on the land, tilling the soil and keeping beasts.

Their villages and their farms, their occupations and their social customs, varied widely from one part of the country to the other; one cannot generalize from the state of-Norfolk to the state of Yorkshire or even from that of Kent to that of Sussex, without making serious mistakes.

But on the whole the settlements of that time, and the customs belonging to them, fall into two main types: scattered and nucleated villages. THE VILLAGE AND THE MANOR

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