History is probably the only field where scholars need to constantly find new ways of studying a subject that is by its very nature old. In no specialty is that basic truth more observable than in the area of Post-Roman British/subRoman/Arthurian history. Here, the overwhelming amount of literature as well as the public’s conception focuses on the fantastic – romance, chivalry, dragons, and magic. To study the period is to risk being ridiculed in the academic community and to be placed in the same category as alien abductees, the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, and UFO witnesses.
To avoid this problem, ‘Arthurian’ studies have traditionally been extremely conservative; new approaches are slow to be accepted. The evidence must be much greater for a new concept or approach to be accepted here than in the other periods of history. The down side to being so concerned with the integrity of the field has been that the precautions have prevented the huge advances in knowledge that have characterized other fields, even history, over the passed century.
And yet it is necessary. The plethora of lesser calibre historians that each year claim to know all sorts of impossible information is evidence enough that the public wants to be told such things. Unfortunately, simply not accepting change until it is absolutely necessary is an easy way out. It is much harder to carefully move forward, cutting no corners as one meticulously moves through all the material, accepts where and how each literary and historical document may be used, and allows the results to lead to their own conclusion. That is the approach I hope I have taken.