Early English genealogies
: the evolution of their content, form, and function

  • Christopher Mark Eddington

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


This thesis traces, for the first time in detail, the evolution of early English genealogical literary forms in pre-Conquest texts, from the short pedigrees written in Latin in Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum in the early eighth century to the extensive pedigree of Æthelwulf in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in the late ninth. It argues that early English genealogies were modelled on those in the Bible, and influenced by theological number symbolism and chronological frameworks, which were based on biblical genealogy. Key characteristics of English genealogy are discussed including: descent from Woden; the use of ethnonyms and dynastic eponyms; the alliteration of names, and the formal properties of structures and patterns in genealogies. A central argument of this thesis is that many of the variations between the content of different versions of shared or similar genealogical materials result from the increasing importance to writers of their structural, alliterative, and metrical forms, the development of which reflects, or even affects, the changing priorities or ideologies of the genealogists. As almost all of the genealogies are incorporated into other texts, the purposes of those texts are considered and the use the genealogies are put to. A second key argument of this thesis is that genealogy performs ideological work within narrative and other literary texts
Date of Award30 Nov 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorChris Jones (Supervisor) & Alex Woolf (Supervisor)


  • Genealogies
  • Royal
  • Biblical influence
  • Early medieval English
  • Alliterating
  • Fourteen-generation structure
  • Woden
  • Geota/Geata
  • Cerdic
  • Dynastic pedigrees

Access Status

  • Full text embargoed until
  • 4 July 2027

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