Book Review – ‘Pecsaetna’ by Phil Sidebottom

There are only two historical references to the Pecsaetna.  One is in the Tribal Hideage and the other in a charter from 963 that records the transfer of a parcel of land within the bounds of the Pecsaetna (‘in pago Pecset’).  So, to produce a 120 page book about the Pecsaetna you need a lot of background information and a lot of speculation. Dr Sidebottom provides both but also inserts a blank page at the end of each chapter just to pad it out a bit more.  Surprisingly however he doesn’t include an index which is unusual for an academic book and would have added a few more pages.

Having said that the book does try to make some interesting connections.  The Pecsaetna seemed to have occupied the (mostly) Derbyshire Peak District and this is roughly the same area as a large group of high status 7th century Anglo-Saxon barrow burials.  The same area is also the lead mining district of Derbyshire and the location of some fine Anglo-Saxon sculpture including the Wirksworth slab and a series of cross shafts. 

I would have liked to have seen a summary of the arguments for the origin and dating of the Tribal Hideage.  Dr Sidebottom believes that the document was of Mercian origin and whilst he acknowledges that others think it may have been Northumbrian I didn’t get a sense of why one argument would have been preferred.  The lack of clarity around the Tribal Hideage makes the origins of the Pecsaetna a bit murky.  Similarly the timing of the demise of the Pecsaetna is also obscure. Presumably, at some stage they were absorbed by Mercia and by the time of the 963 charter ‘in pago Pecset’ was referring to an administrative area rather than a separate kingdom.

There are a few annoying typos and errors (eg confusing complement and compliment) and the subtitle of the book (People of the Anglo-Saxon Peak District) is a better description of the contents than that of an obscure tribe about which almost nothing is known.

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