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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 centuries 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 short-lived 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 the 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, Danes and Anglo-Normans became the modern English people.

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Bald's Leechbook page.jpg

Bald's Leechbook is an Old English medical text that was probably compiled in the 9th century, possibly under the influence of Alfred the Great's educational reforms.

It takes its name from a Latin verse colophon at the end of the second book, which begins Bald habet hunc librum Cild quem conscribere iussit, meaning "Bald owns this book which he ordered Cild to compile." (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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Tidfrith Cross Slab
Credit: Deacon of Pndapetzim

A 19th century engraving of a possibly early 9th century cross-slab from the cemetery of Wearmouth, north-east England

Selected biography

Wiglaf name.gif

Wiglaf (died 839) was King of Mercia from 827 to 829 and again from 830 until his death. His ancestry is uncertain: the 820s were a period of dynastic conflict within Mercia and the genealogy of several of the kings of this time is unknown. Wigstan, his grandson, was later recorded as a descendant of Penda of Mercia, so it is possible that Wiglaf was descended from Penda, one of the most powerful seventh-century kings of Mercia.

Wiglaf succeeded Ludeca, who was killed campaigning against East Anglia. His first reign coincided with the continued rise of the rival Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex under Egbert. Egbert drove Wiglaf from the throne in 829, and ruled Mercia directly for a year. Wiglaf recovered the kingdom in 830, probably by force although it may be that Wiglaf remained subject to Egbert's overlordship. Mercia never regained the south-eastern kingdoms, but Berkshire and perhaps Essex came back into Mercian control. The causes of the fluctuating fortunes of Mercia and Wessex are a matter of speculation, but it may be that Carolingian support influenced both Egbert's ascendancy and the subsequent Mercian recovery. Although Wiglaf appears to have restored Mercia's independence, the recovery was short-lived, and later in the century Mercia was divided between Wessex and the Vikings.

Wiglaf died in about 839, and was probably succeeded by Beorhtwulf, though one tradition records his son, Wigmund as having reigned briefly. Wiglaf is buried at Repton, near Derby. (more...)

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