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 was early medieval England, existing from the 5th to the 11th century from the end of Roman Britain until the Norman conquest in 1066. It consisted of various Anglo-Saxon kingdoms until 927 when it was united as the Kingdom of England by King Æthelstan (r. 927–939). It became part of the North Sea Empire of Cnut the Great, a personal union between England, Denmark and Norway in the 11th century.

The Anglo-Saxons were the members of Germanic-speaking groups who migrated to the southern half of the island of Great Britain from nearby northwestern Europe and their cultural descendants. Anglo-Saxon history thus begins during the period of Sub-Roman Britain following the end of Roman control, and traces the establishment of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in the 5th and 6th centuries (conventionally identified as seven main kingdoms: Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia, Essex, Kent, Sussex, and Wessex), their Christianisation during the 7th century, the threat of Viking invasions and Danish settlers, the gradual unification of England under Wessex hegemony during the 9th and 10th centuries, and ending with the Norman conquest of England by William the Conqueror in 1066.

Anglo-Saxon identity survived beyond the Norman conquest, came to be known as Englishry under Norman rule and through social and cultural integration with Celts, Anglo-Normans and other cultures from around the world became the modern English people.

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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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Replica of the helmet from the Sutton Hoo ship-burial
Credit: Gernot Keller

Sutton Hoo, near Woodbridge, in Suffolk, is the site of two 6th- and early 7th-century cemeteries. One contained an undisturbed ship burial including a wealth of Anglo-Saxon artefacts of outstanding art-historical and archaeological significance, now held in the British Museum in London.

Selected biography

Ine was King of Wessex from 688 to 726. He was unable to retain the territorial gains of his predecessor, Cædwalla, who had brought much of southern England under his control and expanded West Saxon territory substantially. By the end of Ine's reign the kingdoms of Kent, Sussex and Essex were no longer under West Saxon domination; however, Ine maintained control of what is now Hampshire, and consolidated and extended Wessex's territory in the western peninsula.

Ine is noted for his code of laws (Ine’s laws or laws of Ine), which he issued in about 694. These laws were the first issued by an Anglo-Saxon king outside Kent. They shed much light on the history of Anglo-Saxon society, and reveal Ine's Christian convictions. Trade increased significantly during Ine's reign, with the town of Hamwic (now Southampton) becoming prominent. It was probably during Ine's reign that the West Saxons began to mint coins, though none have been found that bear his name.

Ine abdicated in 726 to go to Rome, leaving the kingdom to "younger men", in the words of the contemporary chronicler Bede. He was succeeded by Æthelheard. (more...)

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