Portal:Anglo-Saxon England

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Anglo-Saxon England

England green top 2.svg
Edward the Elder - MS Royal 14 B VI.jpg

Anglo-Saxon England lasted from the end of the Roman occupation of Britain and the establishment of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in the 5th century until the Norman conquest of England of October the 14th 1066. The Anglo-Saxons were Germanic tribes who settled in the southern half of Britain from continental Europe, and their descendants as well as indigenous people who adopted the Anglo-Saxon culture and language, in the 5th and 6th centuries. Their language, which is now called Old English, and the culture of the era, has long attracted popular and scholarly attention.

Until the 9th century, Anglo-Saxon England was dominated by the kingdoms of Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia, Essex, Kent and Wessex. The Anglo-Saxons were initially pagans, but they converted to Christianity during the 7th century.

Facing the threat of Viking attacks that began in the 9th century, the kings of Wessex became dominant amongst the Anglo-Saxon rulers. During the 10th century, the individual kingdoms unified under the rule of Wessex to become the kingdom of England, which stood opposed to the Viking kingdoms established in the north and east of England. The Kingdom of England fell in the Viking invasion from Denmark in 1013 and again in 1016. England was ruled by the House of Denmark until 1042, when the Anglo-Saxon House of Wessex was restored. The last Anglo-Saxon king, Harold Godwinson, was killed in 1066 at the Battle of Hastings.

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Tribal Hidage 2.svg

The Tribal Hidage is a list of thirty-five tribes that was compiled in Anglo-Saxon England some time between the 7th and 9th centuries. It includes a number of independent kingdoms and other smaller territories and assigns a number of hides to each one. The list of tribes is headed by Mercia and consists almost exclusively of peoples who lived south of the Humber estuary and that surrounded the Mercian kingdom, some of which have never been satisfactorily identified by scholars.

The original purpose of the Tribal Hidage remains unknown: many scholars believe that it was a tribute list created by a king, but other possibilities have been suggested. Many historians are convinced that the Tribal Hidage originated from Mercia, which dominated southern Anglo-Saxon England until the start of the 9th century, but others have argued that the text was Northumbrian in origin.

The Tribal Hidage has been of great importance to historians since the middle of the 19th century, partly because it mentions territories unrecorded in other documents. Attempts to link all the names in the list with modern places are highly speculative and all resulting maps are treated with caution. Three different versions (or recensions) of the Tribal Hidage have survived, two of which resemble each other: one dates from the 11th century and is part of a miscellany of works, another is contained in a 17th century Latin treatise, and the third (which has survived in six mediaeval manuscripts) contains many omissions and spelling variations. (more...)

Did you know?

Did you know...
  • ...that in Anglo-Saxon England, pregnant women were warned against eating food that was too salty or too sweet, or other fatty foods, and were also cautioned not to drink strong alcohol or travel on horseback?
  • ...that the ship-burial at Snape is the only one in England that can be compared to the example at Sutton Hoo?
  • ...that the name Taplow of the burial mound at Taplow, comes from Old English Tæppas hláw ('Tæppa's mound'), so that the name of the man buried in the mound would seem to have been Tæppa?
  • ...that the Ordinance Concerning the Dunsaete, which gave procedures for dealing with disputes between the English and the Welsh of Archenfield, stated that the English should only cross into the Welsh side, and vice versa, in the presence of an appointed man who had to make sure that the foreigner was safely escorted back to the crossing point?


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Hoard of Anglo-Saxon rings
Credit: Portable Antiquities Scheme

Hoard of Anglo-Saxon rings found at Leeds, West Yorkshire.

Selected biography


Augustine of Canterbury (circa first third of the 6th century – probably 26 May 604) was a Benedictine monk who became the first Archbishop of Canterbury in the year 597. He is considered the "Apostle to the English" and a founder of the English Church.[1]

Augustine was the prior of a monastery in Rome when Pope Gregory the Great chose him in 595 to lead a mission, usually known as the Gregorian mission, to Britain to Christianize King Æthelberht and his Kingdom of Kent from their native Anglo-Saxon paganism. Before reaching Kent the missionaries had considered turning back but Gregory urged them on and, in 597, Augustine landed on the Isle of Thanet and proceeded to Æthelberht's main town of Canterbury.

King Æthelberht converted to Christianity and allowed the missionaries to preach freely, giving them land to found a monastery outside the city walls. Augustine was consecrated as a bishop and converted many of the king's subjects, including thousands during a mass baptism on Christmas Day in 597. Pope Gregory sent more missionaries in 601, along with encouraging letters and gifts for the churches, although attempts to persuade the native Celtic bishops to submit to Augustine's authority failed. Augustine also arranged the consecration of his successor, Laurence of Canterbury. The archbishop probably died in 604 and was soon revered as a saint. (more...)

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  1. ^ Delaney Dictionary of Saints pp. 67–68
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