Action

Dr. Deborah J. Shepherd is a researcher, writer, and former instructor of archaeology, medieval studies, and anthropology. She has been an educator at colleges, universities, and museums in Minnesota and Wisconsin, including the University of Minnesota, the Hill Medieval Manuscript Library at St. John’s University, the Minnesota Science Museum, and the University of Wisconsin-Stout. Her favorite subjects are the Post-Roman (Dark Age) centuries in Britain and the Viking Age of northern Europe from Ireland to western Russia. The time span of her expertise ranges from 400 to 1100 AD. Dr. Shepherd studied as a Fulbright-Hays Dissertation Scholar in Finland and co-led three seasons of an archaeological field school at a Viking site in northern England. She has published on the subject of early Anglo-Saxon maiden (and masculine) warriors, and in 2013, her book on life in Post-Roman Britain was released by the Greenwood Press of ABC-Clio Publishers.

Published as part of the well-known Daily Life in History reference series for high school and public libraries, this title, Daily Life in Arthurian Britain, describes what archaeological and a very limited number of historical sources reveal about life in Britain after the Romans left. The origins of Arthurian legend, initially a nationalistic Celtic array of stories of warrior heroes fighting back against Anglo-Saxon invaders, are found in the fifth and sixth centuries. During the high Middle Ages, some six centuries later, foreign influences dramatically changed the character of King Arthur into a polished European-like monarch whose questing knights were the flower of chivalry. This later vision could not be further from the Celtic legendary origins of the warlord Arthur.

Surprisingly, or not, history says virtually nothing of Arthur. Few historians believe he was likely to be real. Some think “Arthur” is a name given in oral tradition to the assorted heroes of many warrior tales. Others have suggested that the name Arthur was in fact assigned to memories of the shadowy fifth-century historical figure of Ambrosius Aurelianus.

Dr. Shepherd’s book supplies the context and background for life in Arthurian times. How did the departure of the Romans affect life in Britain? What happened to the government, the towns, and the culture that the Romans had brought? How did ordinary Britons survive such disruption and rapid social upheaval? Why did the Anglo-Saxons come to Britain, and how did they really interact with the Romanized Britons? Dr. Shepherd will host an informal presentation and discussion about Arthur, his legend, and real life in Post-Roman Britain.

A screening of the award-winning PG-13 movie “King Arthur” (2004) starring Clive Owen, Ioan Gruffudd, and Keira Knightley, and directed by Antoine Fuqua, will follow. This well-made action movie accurately incorporates a number of interesting and sometimes surprising theories of recent Arthurian scholarship that Dr. Shepherd will outline to the audience.