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The history of Anglo-Saxon England covers the history of England from the end of Roman Britain and the establishment of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in the fifth century until the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. Anglo-Saxon is a general term that refers to tribes of German origin who came to Britain, including Angles, Saxons, Frisians and Jutes.


Historical context

As the Roman occupation of England was coming to an end, Constantine III withdrew the remains of the army, in reaction to the barbarian invasion of Europe.[1][2] The Romano-British leaders were faced with an increasing security problem from sea borne raids particularly by Picts on the East coast of England.[3] The expedient adopted by the Romano-British leaders was to enlist the help of Anglo-Saxon mercenaries (known as foederati) to whom they ceded territory.[3][4] In about 442AD the Anglo-Saxons mutinied apparently because they had not been paid adequately.[5] The British responded by appealing to the Roman commander of the Western empire Aëtius for help (known as the Groans of the Britons) even though Honorius the Western Roman Emperor had written to the British civitas in about 410AD to look to their own defence.[6][7][8][9] There then followed several years of fighting between the British and the Anglo-Saxons.[10] The period of fighting continued till about 500AD, when at the Battle of Mount Badon, the Britons inflicted a severe defeat on the Anglo-Saxons.[11]


There is a wide range of source material that covers Anglo-Saxon England.

There are literary sources:

7th Century Anglo-Saxon Church. Church architecture and artefacts provide a useful source of historical information.

Other written sources include:

None literary sources include:

Migration and the formation of kingdoms (400-600)

Map of Briton settlements in the 6th-century.

There are records of Germanic infiltration into Britain that date before the collapse of the Roman Empire.[23] It is believed that the earliest Germanic visitors were eight cohorts of Batavians attached to the Legio XIV Gemina in the original invasion force under Aulus Plautius in 43AD.[23][24][25]

2nd to 5th century simplified migration patterns.

It was quite common for Rome to swell its legions with foederati recruited from the German homelands.[26] This practice also extended to the army serving in Britain and graves of these mercernaries along with their families can be identified in the Roman cemeteries of the period.[27] The migration continued with the departure of the Roman army when Anglo-Saxons were recruited to defend Britain and also during the period of the Anglo-Saxon first rebellion of 442AD.[28]

After the defeat of the Anglo-Saxons by the British, at the Battle of Mount Badon, in c.500AD, where according to Gildas the British resistance was led by a man called Ambrosius Aurelianus, Anglo-Saxon migration was temporarly stemmed..[11] [29] Gildas also said that it was "forty-four years and one month" after the arrival of the Saxons, and was the year of his birth.[11] He said what followed was a time of great prosperity.[11] But despite the lull the Anglo-Saxons took control of Sussex, Kent, East Anglia and part of Yorkshire,and the West Saxons founded a kingdom in Hampshire under Cerdic around 520AD.[30] However it was to be 50 years before the Anglo-Saxons began further major advances.[30] In the intervening years the Britons exhausted themselves with civil war, internal disputes and general unrest, which was the inspiration behind Gildas and his De Excidio Britanniae (The Ruin of Britain).[31]

The next major campaign against the Britons was in 577AD, led by Cealin, king of Wessex, whose campaigns succeeded in taking Cirencester, Gloucester and Bath (known as the Battle of Dyrham).[30][32][33] This expansion of Wessex ended abruptly when the English started fighting amongst themselves, which resulted in Cealin eventually having to retreat to his original territory and then being being replaced by Ceol (possibly his nephew), Cealin was killed the following year, the annals do not specify by whom.[34][35] And Cirencester became an Anglo-Saxon kingdom under the overlordship of the Mercians rather than Wessex.[36].

If the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles are to be believed, then the various Anglo-Saxon kingdoms that eventually merged to become England, were founded when small fleets of three or five ships of invaders arrived at various points around the coast of England to fight the Sub-Roman British and conquer their lands.[37] As Margaret Gelling points out, when talking of place name evidence, what actually happened between the departure of the Romans and the coming of the Normans is subject to much debate by historians.[38]

The arrival of the Anglo-Saxons into Britain can be seen in the context of a general movement of German people around Europe between the years 300 and 700 AD known as the Migration period (also called the Barbarian Invasions or Völkerwanderung). In the same time period there were migrations of Britons to the Amorican peninsula (Brittany and Normandy in modern day France) initially at around 383AD during Roman rule but also c.460 AD and the 540s and 550s AD, the 460s migration is thought to be a reaction to the fighting during the Anglo-Saxon mutiny between about 450 to 500 AD, as was the migration to Britonia (modern day Galicia, in northwest Spain) at about the same time.[39]

The historian Peter Hunter-Blair expounded probably what is now regarded as the traditional view of the Anglo-Saxon arrival in Britain.[40] That is of mass immigration and fighting and driving the Sub-Roman Britons off their land into the western extremities of the islands and the Breton and Iberian peninsulas.[41] The more modern view is of co-existence between the British and the Anglo-Saxons.[22][42] Discussions and analysis still continues on the size of the migration and whether it was a small elite band of Anglo-Saxons who came in and took over the running of the country or was it indeed a mass migration of peoples who overwhelmed the Britons?[43][44][45]

Heptarchy and Christianisation (600-800)

By 600AD a new order was developing of kingdoms and sub-Kingdoms, Henry of Huntingdon (a medieval historian) conceived the idea of the Heptarchy which consisted of the seven principal Anglo-Saxon kingdoms.[46]

Anglo-Saxon England heptarchy

The four main kingdoms in Anglo-Saxon England were:

British kingdoms around about the year 800 AD

Minor kingdoms:

Other minor kingdoms and territories

At the end of the 6th century the most powerful ruler in England was Æthelberht of Kent whose lands extended north to the Humber.[47] In the early years of the 7th century Kent and East-Anglia were the leading English kingdoms.[48] After the death of Æthelberht in 616 Rædwald of East Anglia became the most powerful leader south of the Humber.[48]

Following the death of Æthelfrith of Northumbria, Rædwald provided military assistance to the Deiran Edwin, in his struggle to take over the two dynasties of Deira and Bernicia in the unified kingdom of Northumbria.[48] Then on the death of Rædwald, Edwin was able to pursue a grand plan to expand Northumbrian power .[48]

The growing strength of Edwin of Northumbria forced the Anglo-Saxon Mercians, under Penda into an alliance with the Welsh King Cadwallon of Gwynedd , and together they invaded Edwin's lands and defeated and killed him at the Battle of Hatfield Chase in 633.[49][50] The success was short-lived as in his turn, Oswald (one of the dead King of Northumbria, Æthelfrith's sons) defeated and killed Cadwallon at Heavenfield near Hexham.[51] In less than a decade Penda again waged war against Northumbria and killed Oswald in battle during 642AD.[52] His brother Oswiu was chased to the northern extremes of his kingdom.[52] [53] However Oswiu killed Penda shortly after and Mercia spent the rest of the 7th and 8th centuries fighting the kingdom of Powys. [52] The war reached its climax during the reign of Offa of Mercia.[52] Offa is remembered for the construction of an 150 mile (240 km) long dyke on the Wales/ England border.[54] It is not sure whether this was just a boundary line or a defensive position[54] The ascendency of the Mercians came to an end, in 825AD, when they were soundly beaten under Beornwulf at the Battle of Ellendun by Egbert of Wessex.[55]

Whitby Abbey

Christianity was introduced to the British Isles during the Roman occupation.[56] The early Christian Berber author Tertullian, in the third century, wrote that "Christianity could even be found in Britain."[57] The Roman Emperor Constantine (306-337AD), granted official tolerance to Christianity with the Edict of Milan in 313 AD.[58] Then in the reign of Emperor Theodosius "the Great" (378-395AD), Christianity was made the official religion of the Roman Empire[59]

It is not entirely clear how many Britons would have been Christian when the pagan Anglo-Saxons arrived.[60][61] There had been attempts to evangelise the Irish by Pope Celestine in 431AD.[62] However, it was Saint Patrick who is credited with converting the Irish en-masse.[62] A Christian Ireland set about evangelising the rest of the British Isles so Columba was sent to found the religious community in Iona, off the west coast of Scotland.[63] Then Aidan was sent from Iona to set up his see in Northumbria at Lindisfarne between 635- 651AD.[64] Thus Northumbria was converted by the Celtic (Irish) church.[64]

Bede is very uncomplimentary about the British clergy, in his Historia ecclesiastica, he complains of their unspeakable crimes and that they did not preach the faith to the Angles or Saxons.[65] Pope Gregory sent Augustine in 597AD to convert the Anglo-Saxons and Bede says that the British clergy refused to help Augustine in his mission.[66][67] Despite Bede's complaints it is now believed that the Britons played an important role in the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons.[68] On arrival in the south east of England in 597 AD , Augustine was given land by King Æthelberht of Kent to build a church; so in 597AD Augustine built the church and founded the See at Canterbury.[69] He baptised Æthelberht in 601AD, then continued with his mission to convert the English.[70] Most of the north and east of England had already been evangelised by the Irish Church, however Sussex and the Isle of Wight remained (mostly) pagan until the arrival of Saint Wilfrid, the exiled Archbishop of York, who converted Sussex around 681AD and the Isle of Wight in 683AD.[71][72][73]

Even after the Anglo-Saxons had been converted to Christianity, there was friction between the followers of the Roman rites and the Irish rites, particularly over the date when Easter fell and the way monks cut their hair.[74] So in 664AD a conference was held at Whitby Abbey (known as the Whitby Synod) to decide the matter, Saint Wilfrid was an advocate for the Roman rites and Bishop Colmán for the Irish rites.[75] Wilfrid's argument won the day and Coleman and his party returned to Ireland in their bitter disappointment.[75] And so the Roman rites were adopted by the English church although they were not universally accepted by the Irish Church initially.[75]

Viking challenge and the rise of Wessex (9th century)

Map of England 878AD showing the extent of Danelaw.

Between the eighth and eleventh century raiders, conquerors and colonists from Scandinavia, mainly Danish and Norwegian, plundered western Europe including the British Isles.[76] These raiders came to be known as the Vikings; the name was believed to have been derived from Scandinavia where the Vikings originated.[77][78] The first raids in the British Isles were in the late eighth century and mainly on churches and monasteries.[77][79]

The walled defence round a burh. Alfred's capital, Winchester. Saxon and medieval work on Roman foundations[80].

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles report that the holy island of Lindisfarne was sacked in 793AD.[81] The raiding then virtually stopped for about forty years, but in about 835AD they started becoming more regular.[82]

In the 860's, instead of raids, the Danes mounted a full scale invasion, and 865 marked the arrival of an enlarged army that the Anglo-Saxons described as the Great Heathen Army. This was reinforced in 871 by the Great Summer Army.[82] Within ten years nearly all the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms fell to the invader, Northumbria in 867, East Anglia in 869 and nearly all of Mercia in 874 - 7.[82] Kingdoms, centres of learning, archives, churches all seem to fall with the onslaught from the invading Danes. Only the Kingdom of Wessex was able to hang on.[82] Then in March of 878AD the Anglo-Saxon King of Wessex, Alfred and a few men built a fortress at Athelney, in Somerset.[83]. He used this as a base to attack the Vikings, and in May 878AD he put together an army with people from Somerset, Wiltshire and Hampshire and fought the Viking army at Edington[83]. The Viking army retreated to their stronghold and Alfred laid siege.[83] Ultimately the Danes capitulated and their leader Gunthrum agreed to being baptised and also to withdraw from Wessex, the formal ceremony was completed a few days later at Wedmore.[83][84]. There followed a peace treaty between Alfred and Guthrum that had a variety of clauses including defining the boundaries of the area to be ruled by the Danes (which became known as Danelaw) and of Wessex.[85] Wessex controlled part of the Midlands and the whole of the south (except Cornwall which was still held by the Britons), while the Danes were in East Anglia and the north.[86]

After the victory at Edington and the resultant peace treaty, Alfred set about transforming his Kingdom of Wessex into a society on a full time war footing.[87] He built a navy, reorganised the army and set up a system of fortified towns known as burhs. He mainly used old Roman cities for his burhs, as he was able to rebuild and reinforce their existing fortifications.[87] To maintain the burhs, and the standing army, he set up a taxation system known as the Burghal Hidage.[88] The burh worked as defensive structures, after an initial foray, the Vikings were unable to cross large sections of Wessex and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle reported that a Danish raiding party were defeated when they tried to attack the burh of Chichester.[89][90] The burhs although primarily designed as defensive structures worked as commercial centres with traders and markets, they provided a safe place for the kings moneyers and mints too.[91]

A new wave of Danish invasions commenced in the year 891AD.[92] This was the beginning of a war that lasted over three years.[93][94] However, Alfred's new system of defence worked and ultimately it wore the Danes down, with them giving up and dispersing in the summer of 896AD.[94]

Alfred will also be remembered as a literate king, he or his court commissioned the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, these were written in Old English, rather than in Latin (as with other European annals).[95] Alfred's own literary output was of translations, although he would write introductions and amend manuscripts as well.[95] [96]

English Unification (10th century)

Edgar's coinage

On Alfred's death in 899AD his son Edward the Elder, succeeded him.[97] Alfred's son Edward and grandsons Æthelstan, Edmund I and Eadred continued the policy of resistance against the Vikings.[98] From 874 - 879AD the western half of Mercia was ruled by Ceowulf II, he was succeeded by Æthelred.[99] In 886/ 887 Æthelred married Alfred's daughter Æthelflæd.[99] When Æthelred died in 911AD his widow administerd the Mercian province with the title "Lady of the Mercians".[99] As commander of the Mercian army she worked with her brother Edward the Elder to win back the Mercian lands that were under Danish control.[99] Edward and his successors made burhs a key element of their strategy which enabled them to go on the offensive.[98][100] Edward recaptured Essex in 913AD Edward's son Æthelstan annexed Northumbria, and forced the kings of Wales to submit and, at the battle of Brunanburh in 937AD, defeated an alliance of the Scots, Danes and Vikings to become King of all England.[98][101] However it was not only the Britons and the settled Danes, who disliked being ruled by Wessex, so did some of the other Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms, consequently the death of a Wessex king would be followed by rebellion particularly in Northumbria.[98] But in 973AD Alfred's great grandson was crowned King of England and Emperor of Britain at Bath.[102] On his coinage he had inscribed EDGAR REX ANGLORUM 'Edgar King of the English'. Edgars coronation was a magnificent affair and a lot of its rituals and words could still be seen in the coronation of Elizabeth II of England in 1953, although in English rather than Latin.[103]

The effects of Danish and Norse settlers, in Danelaw, has had a lasting impact; the people there saw themselves as "armies" a hundred years after settlement.[104] King Edgar issued a law code in 962AD , it was to include the people of Northumbria, so he addressed it to Earl Olac and all the army that live in that earldom.[104] There are over 3000 words in modern English that have Scandinavian roots.[105][106] Also, in England more than 1,500 place-names are Scandinavian in origin; topographic names such as Howe, Norfolk ‎ and Howe, North Yorkshire‎, are derived from the Old Norse word haugr meaning hill, knoll or mound.[106][107]

England under the Danes and the Norman Conquest (978-1066)

Two years after his coronation at Bath, Edgar died, while still only in his early thirties.[108] Edgar left two surviving sons Edward (the eldest) and his half-brother Æthelred.[108] Edward was crowned king at Kingston, but three years later he was assassinated by one of his half-brothers retainers with the assistance of Æthelreds stepmother.[108] Æthelred II was crowned and although he reigned for thirty eight years, one of the longest in English history, he earnt the name "Æthelred the Unready" as he turned out to be one of Englands most disastrous kings.[109]William of Malmesbury writing in his "Chronicle of the kings of England", about one hundred years later, was scathing in his criticism of Æthelred, saying that he occupied the kingdom rather than governed it.[110]

Viking longboat in Ramsgate, Essex.

Just as Æthelred was being crowned the Danish King Gormsson was trying to enforce Christianity onto his domain.[111] Many of his subjects did not like this idea and shortly before 988, Swein his son, and followers, drove his father from the kingdom.[111] The rebels dispossessed at home, probably formed the first waves of raids on the English coast.[111] The rebels did so well in their raiding that the Danish kings decided to take over the campaign themselves.[112]

In 991 the Vikings sacked Ipswich, the fleet made landfall near Maldon in Essex.[112] The Danes demanded that the English pay a ransom, the English commander Byrhtnoth refused, in the following Battle of Maldon he was killed and the English easily defeated.[112] From then on the Vikings seem to raid anywhere at will, they were contemptuous of the lack of resistance from the English, even the Alfredian systems of burhs failed.[113] Æthelred seems to have just hidden himself away out of range of the raiders.[113]

By the 980s the kings of Wessex had a powerful grip on the coinage of the realm, it is reckoned that there were about 300 moneyers and 60 mints around the country.[114] Every five or six years the coinage in circulation would cease to be legal tender and new coins were issued.[114] The system controlling the currency around the country was extremely sophisticated, this enabled the king to raise large sums of money if needed.[115][116] The ability to raise large sums of money was needed after the battle of Maldon, as Æthelred decided rather than fight, he would pay ransom to the Danes in a system known as Danegeld.[117] As part of the ransom a peace treaty was drawn up that was intended to stop the raids, however, rather than buying the Vikings off it only encouraged them to come back for more.[118]

The Dukes of Normandy were quite happy to allow these Danish adventurers to use their ports for raids on the English coast.[111] The result was the courts of England and Normandy became increasingly hostile to each other.[111] Eventually, Æthelred sought a treaty with the Normans and ended up marrying Emma, daughter of Richard I the Duke of Normandy in the Spring of 1002AD, which was seen as an attempt to break the link between the raiders and Normandy.[113][119]

On St Brices day in November 1002AD, Danes living in England were slaughtered on the orders of Æthelred.[120]

In the summer of 1013AD, Sven Forkbeard, King of Denmark brought the Danish fleet to Sandwich, Kent.[121] From there he went north to Danelaw, where the locals immediately agreed to support him.[121] He then struck south forcing Æthelred into exile in Normandy (1013–1014), however on 3 February 1014 Sven suddenly died.[121] Æthelred, capitalising on Svens death, returned to England and drove Svens son Cnut, back to Denmark, Cnut abandoning his allies in the process[121] In 1015 Cnut launched a new campaign against England.[121] Edmund, fell out with his father Æthelred and struck out on his own.[122] Some of the English leaders decided to support Cnut rather than Æthelred, so ultimately Æthelred, reconciled with Edmund retreated to London.[122] Before there was an engagement with the Danish army, Æthelred died and was replaced by Edmund as king.[122]

Cnuts dominions.

The Danish army encircled and besieged London, however Edmund was able to escape and raise an army of loyalists.[122] Edmunds army routed the Danes, but the success was short-lived, as at the battle of Ashingdon, the Danes were victorious and a lot of the English leaders were killed.[122] However Cnut and Edmund agreed to split the kingdom in two, with Edmund ruling Wessex and Cnut the rest.[122][123] The following year (1017AD) Edmund died in mysterious circumstances and the English council (witan) confirmed Cnut king of all England.[122]

Cnut divided England in to earldoms, most of these were allocated to nobles of Danish descent, but he made an Englishman earl of Wessex, the man he appointed was Godwin, who eventually became part of the extended royal family when he married the kings sister in law.[124] In the summer of 1017, Cnut sent for Æthelred's widow, Emma with the intention of marrying her.[125] It seems that Emma agreed to marry the king on condition that he would limit the English succession to the children born of their union.[126] Cnut already had a wife known as Ælfgifu of Northampton that had bore him two sons, Svein and Harold Harefoot.[126] However it seems that the church regarded Ælfgifu as Cnut's concubine rather than wife.[126] As well as the two sons he had with Ælfgifu of Northampton, he had a further son with Emma who was named Harthacnut.[126][127]

When Cnut's brother, Harald II, King of Denmark, died in 1018 Cnut went to Denmark to secure that realm.[127] Two years later, Cnut brought Norway under his control and he gave Ælfgifu of Northampton and their son Svein the job of governing it.[127]

One of the outcomes of Cnuts marriage to Emma was to precipitate a succession crisis after his death in 1035AD.[127] The throne was disputed between Ælfgifu's son, Harald Harefoot and Emmas son Harthacnut.[128] Emma supported Hathacnut rather than her sons by Æthelred.[129] Her son by Æthelred, Edward made an unsuccessful raid on Southampton and his brother Albert was murdered on an expedition to England in 1036.[129] Emma fled to Bruges when Harald Harefoot became king of England although when he died in 1040 Harthacnut was able to take over as king.[128] Harthacnut quickly developed a reputation for imposing high taxes on England.[128] In fact he became so unpopular that Edward was invited to return from exile in Normandy to be recognised as Harthacnuts heir.[129][130] However, Harthacnut suddenly died in 1042 and Edward (the Confessor) became king.[129]

Edward was supported by Earl Godwin of Wessex, and Edward married the earls daughter, however this was seen as something of an expedient as Godwin had been implicated in the murder of Alfred, the kings brother.[129] In 1051 one of Edwards in-laws Eustace arrived to take up residence in Dover, the men of Dover objected and killed some of Eustaces men.[129] When Godwin refused to punish them the king, who had been unhappy with the Godwins for some time, summoned them to trial, Stigand the Archbishop of Canterbury being chosen to deliver the news to Godwin and his family.[131] The Godwins fled rather than face trial.[131] It is thought that at this time Edward offered the succession to William of Normandy, a relation on his mother Emmas side of the family.[129] The Godwins threatened to invade England and Edward is said to have wanted to fight, but at a great council meeting in Westminster Earl Godwin lay down all his weapons and asked the king to allow him to purge himself of all crimes.[132] The king and Godwin were reconcilled.[132] The Godwins then became the most powerful family in England after the king.[133][134] On Godwins death in 1053, his son Harold succeeded to the earldom of Wessex; Harolds brothers Gyrth, Leofrine and Tostig were given East Anglia, Mercia and Northumbria.[133] Tostig was disliked by the Northumbrians for his harsh behaviour and was expelled to an exile in Flanders, in the process falling out with his brother Harold who supported the kings line in backing the Northumbrians.[135][136]

On the 26th December 1065, Edward was taken ill[137][138] He took to his bed and fell into a coma, at one point he woke and turned to Harold Godwinson and asked him to protect the Queeen and the kingdom.[137][139] On the 5 thJanuary 1066 Edward the Confessor died, Harold was declared king.[138][139] The following day, the 6 th of January 1066 Edward was buried and Harold crowned .[139][140]

Although Harold Godwinson had grabbed the crown of England there were others who laid claim, primarily William, Duke of Normandy who was cousin to Edward the Confessor through his aunt, Emma of Normandy.[141] It is believed that Edward had promised the crown to William.[129] Harold had agreed to support Williams claim after being imprisoned by a count Guy in Normandy.[142] William had demanded and received Harolds release, then during his stay under Williams protection it is claimed, by the Normans, that Harold swore a solemn oath of loyalty to William.[142]

Harald Hardrada ('The Ruthless') of Norway had a claim on England, through Cnut and his successors.[141] He also had a claim based on a pact between Hathacnut, King of Denmark(Cnuts son) and Magnus, King of Norway. [141]Tostig, Harolds estranged brother, decided to throw his support behind Harold Hardrada.[141][142]

Section of the Bayeaux Tapestry showing Harold being killed at Hastings by an arrow in the eye.

Tostig, was the first to make a move, he left his exile in Flanders to raid the South Coast of England.[143] Harald Hardrada assembled his fleet in Scotland where Tostig joined him.[141] From there he sailed down the east coast to Yorkshire.[141] Harold Godwinsons army had to be marched up from the south coast.[141] The two armies met at Stamford Bridge where Godwinson was victorious, Hardrada and Godwinsons brother Tostig being killed in the battle.[141]

Harold would have been celebrating his victory at Stamford bridge on the night of 26/27 September 1066, while William of Normandys invasion fleet set sail for England on the morning of 27th September 1066.[144] Harold marched his army back down to the south coast where he met Williams army, at a place now called Battle just outside Hastings.[145]Harold was killed when he fought and lost the Battle of Hastings on 14thOctober 1066.[146]

The Battle of Hastings virtually destroyed the Godwin dynasty, Harold and his brothers Gyrth and Leofwine were dead on the battlefield, as was their uncle Ælfwig, Abbot of Newminster.[147] Tostig had been killed at Stamford Bridge. Wulfnoth was a hostage of William the Conqueror. [147]The Godwin women who remained were either dead or childless.[147]

William marched on London, the city leaders surrended the kingdom to him and he was crowned at Westminster Abbey, Edward the Confessors new church, on Christmas day 1066.[148] It took William a further ten years to consolidate his kingdom, any opposition was suppressed ruthlessly, and in a particularly brutal incident known as the 'Harrying of the North', William issued orders to lay waste the north and burn all the cattle, crops and farming equipment and to poison the earth.[149] According to Orderic Vitalis the Anglo-Norman chronicler over one hundred thousand people died of starvation.[150]Figures based on the returns for the Domesday Book estimate that the overall population of England in 1086 was about 2.25 million, so the figure of one hundred thousand deaths, due to starvation, would have been a huge proportion of the population.[151]

By the time of Williams death in 1087 those who had been Englands Anglo Saxon rulers were dead, exiled or had joined the ranks of the peasantry.[152] It was estimated that only about 8 per cent of the land was under Anglo-Saxon control.[148] And nearly all the Anglo-Saxon cathedrals and abbeys of any note had been demolished and replaced with Norman style architecture by 1200AD.[153]

See also


  1. ^ Jones.The end of Roman Britain: Military Security. pp.164 - 168. The author discusses the failings of the Roman army in Britain and the reasons why they eventually left.
  2. ^ Jones.The end of Roman Britain. p246. Roman Britain's death throes began on the last day of December 406 when Alans, Vandals, and Sueves crossed the Rhine and began the invasion of Gaul
  3. ^ a b Morris. The Age of Arthur.pp.56 -62. Picts and Saxons.
  4. ^ Myres. The English Settlements. p.14. Talking about Gildas references to the arrival of three keels(ships),...this was the number of ship loads that led to the foedus or treaty settlement. Gildas also uses in their correct sense technical terms, annona, epimenia, hospites, which most likely derive from official documents relating to the billeting and supply of barbarian foederati.
  5. ^ Morris. Age of Arthur. p.75. - Gildas:.. The federate complained that their monthly deliveries were inadequately paid.. - All the greater towns fell to their enemy..
  6. ^ Gildas.The Ruin of Britain. What Gildas had to say about the letter to Aëtius.
  7. ^ Dark. Britain and the End of the Roman Empire. p.29. Referring to Gildas text about a letter:The Britons...still felt it possible to appeal to Aetius, a Roman military official in Gaul in the mid-440's
  8. ^ Dark. Britain and the End of the Roman Empire. p.29.Both Zosimus and Gildas refer to the 'Rescript of Honorius',a letter in which the Western Roman emperor told the British civitas to see to their own defence.
  9. ^ Esmonde Cleary. The Ending of Roman Britain. pp.137 - 138. The author suggests that the 'Rescript of Honorius' may have been for a place in southern Italy rather than Britain and the chronology is wrong
  10. ^ Morris. The Age of Arthur. Chapter 6. The War
  11. ^ a b c d - Mount Badon is referred to as Bath-Hill in this translation of Gildas text.
  12. ^ The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Online version from Wikisource.
  13. ^ Asser. Alfred the Great. Various discussion through the book, but pp.275 - 281 for background.
  14. ^ Hines ed.The Anglo-Saxons From the Migration Period. pp.211-230: Lendinara. The Kentish Laws
  15. ^ The Dooms. Anglo-Saxon Laws online.
  16. ^ Kelly ed.Anglo-Saxon Charters. Volumes I - XIII. The joint committee of the British Academy and the Royal Historical Society set up in 1966, to organise the publication of the entire corpus of Anglo-Saxon Charters.
  17. ^ Webb/ Farmer.The Age of Bede. This book contains translations of biographies of St Wilfrid, Cuthbert and the Abbots of Wearmouth and Jarrow, by authors who were contemporary with them.
  18. ^ Asser. Alfred the Great. (2004) - this book includes a translation of Alfred's life by a monk who was in the kings service.
  19. ^ Sherley-Price. Bede:Ecclesiastical History". pp.337-351.Bede's letter to Egbert.
  20. ^ Gelling/ Cole. The Landscape of Place-Names. Introduction. The authors explain the importance of evidence based on place-names.
  21. ^ Wood.The Domesday Quest. p.7. Talking of the failings of much of the Anglo-Saxon literature the author says:But Domesday Book enables us to balance that picture by giving us an insight into the roots of that society, its social classes, land ownership, money and power, economy, agriculture, yields and rents, the material force which still influence people's lives today.
  22. ^ a b Welch.Anglo-Saxon England. A complete analysis of Anglo-Saxon Archaeology. From a discussion of where the settlers came from based on a comparison of pottery with those in the area of origin in Germany. Burial customs and types of building
  23. ^ a b Myers.The English Settlements.Chapter 4. The Romano British Background and the Saxon Shore. Myers identifies incidence of German people in Britain during the Roman occupation.
  24. ^ Cassius Dio. Roman History. Book LX.p.417.While these events were happening in the city, Aulus Plautius, a senator of great renown, made a campaign against Britain; for a certain Bericus, who had been driven out of the island as a result of an uprising, had persuaded Claudius to send a force thither.
  25. ^ Cassius Dio. Roman History. Book LX.p.419.Thence the Britons retired to the river Thames at a point near where it empties into the ocean and at flood-tide forms a lake. This they easily crossed because they knew where the firm ground and the easy passages in this region were to be found; but the Romans in attempting to follow them were not so successful. However, the Germans swam across again and some others got over by a bridge a little way up-stream, after which they assailed the barbarians from several sides at once and cut down many of them..
  26. ^ Ward-Perkins. The fall of Rome: and the end of civilization. Particularly pp38 - 39
  27. ^ Welch.Anglo-Saxon England. Chapter 8 - From Roman Britain to Anglo-Saxon England
  28. ^ Myers. The English Settlements. Chapter 5.Saxons, Angles and Jutes on the Saxon Shore
  29. ^ - With their unnumbered vows they burden heaven," that they might not be brought to utter destruction, took arms under the conduct of Ambrosius Aurelianus, a modest man, who of all the Roman nation was then alone in the confusion of this troubled period by chance left alive.
  30. ^ a b c Morris. The Age of Arthur. Chapter 16. English Conquest
  31. ^ Gildas.The Ruin of Britain.
  32. ^ Snyder.The Britons. p.85
  33. ^ Stenton.Anglo-Saxon England. p.29.
  34. ^ Stenton.Anglo-Saxon England. p.30.
  35. ^ Morris. The Age of Arthur. p.299
  36. ^ Wood.The Domesday Quest.pp.47 - 48
  37. ^ Jones.The End of Roman Britain. p.71. - ..the repetitious entries for invading ships in the Chronicle (three ships of Hengest and Horsa; three ships of Aella; five ships of Cerdic and Cynric; two ships of Port; three ships of Stuf and Wihtgar), drawn from preliterate traditions including bogus eponyms and duplications, might be considered a poetic convention.
  38. ^ Gelling/ Cole. The Landscape of Placenames.p.xvii. Historical opinion swings like a pendulum from one extreme to another, and here, as in other disputes about the course of events between the end of Roman rule and the Norman conquest, place name evidence can perform the useful function of steering people away from the lunatic extremes.
  39. ^ Morris. The Age of Arthur. Ch.14:Brittanny
  40. ^ Bell-Fialkoff/ Bell.The role of migration in the history of the Eurasian steppe. p.303.That is why many scholars still subscribe to the traditional view that combined archaeological, documentary and linguistic evidence suggests that considerable numbers of Anglo-Saxons settled in southern and eastern England.
  41. ^ Hunter-Blair.Roman Britain and early England. Particularly Chapter 8. The Age of Invasion
  42. ^ Myers.The English Settlements. p.24.Talking about Anglo-Saxon archaeology:..the distribution maps indicate in many areas the Anglo-Saxon shows a marked tendency to follow the Romano-British pattern, in a fashion which suggests a considerable degree of temporal as well as spatial overlap.
  43. ^ Jones.The End of Roman Britain, Ch.1. Population and the Invasions: particularly pp.11 - 12 .In contrast some scholars shrink the numbers of the Anglo-Saxon invaders to a small, potent elite of only a few thousand invaders.
  44. ^ Welch. Anglo-Saxon England. p.11.Some archaeologists seem to believe that very few immigrants... were involved in the creation of Anglo-Saxon England...Gildas describes the settlement of Saxon mercenaries in the eastern part of the country, their reinforcement and subsequent successful rebellion...suggests more than just a handful of military adventurers..Bede felt secure in his belief that he was not of British descent...Further his list of three principle peoples who migrated here... is echoed in the archaeological record
  45. ^ Bell.The role of migration in the history of the Eurasian steppe. p.303.As for migrants, three kinds of hypotheses have been advanced. Either they were a warrior elite, few in numbers but dominant by force of arms; or they were farmers mostly interested in finding good agricultural land; or they were refugees fleeing unsettled conditions in their homelands. Or they might have been any combination of these.
  46. ^ Greenway. Historia Anglorum. pp.lx -lxi.The HA (Historia Anglorum) is the story of the unification of the English monarchy. To project such an interpretation required Henry(of Huntingdon) to exercise firm control over his material. One of the products of this control was his creation of the Heptarchy, which survived as a concept in historical writing into our own time.
  47. ^ Bede.Ecclesiastical History of the English People.Tr. Shirley-Price. I.25
  48. ^ a b c d Charles-Edwards.After-Rome: Nations and Kingdoms. p.38 - 39
  49. ^ Snyder.The Britons.p176.
  50. ^ Bede.History of the English.II.20
  51. ^ Snyder.The Britons. p.177
  52. ^ a b c d Snyder.The Britons.p.178
  53. ^ Snyder.The Britons.p.212
  54. ^ a b Snyder.The Britons.pp.178-179
  55. ^ Stenton.Anglo-Saxon England. p231
  56. ^ Charles Thomas Christianity in Roman Britain to AD 500. pp.48 - 50: Saint Alban is discussed in detail as when he lived and was martyred gives an indication to the state of Christainity in Roman Britain. Dates suggested for his martyrdom are 209 or 251-9 or c.303AD
  57. ^ Snyder.The Britons. pp.106 - 107
  58. ^ Charles Thomas Christianity in Roman Britain to AD 500.p.47
  59. ^ R.M.Errington Roman Imperial Policy from Julian to Thodosius. Chapter VIII.Theoddosius
  60. ^ Jones. The End of Roman Britain. pp 174 - 185: Religious Belief and Political loyalty. The author suggests that the British were supporters of the Pelagian heresy, and that numbers of Christians were higher than Gildas reports.
  61. ^ Snyder.The Britons.p.105.In fifth and sixth centuries Britons in large numbers adopted Christianity..
  62. ^ a b Snyder. The Britons. pp.116 -125
  63. ^ Charles-Edwards.After Rome:Society, Community and Identity. p.97
  64. ^ a b Charles-Edwards.After Rome:Conversion to Christianity. p.132
  65. ^ Bede.History of the English People. I.22
  66. ^ Bede.History of the English People. II.2
  67. ^ Charles-Edwards.After Rome:Conversion to Christianity. p.128 -129
  68. ^ Snyder.The Britons. pp.135 - 136
  69. ^ Charles-Edwards.After Rome:Conversion to Christianity. p.126
  70. ^ Charles-Edwards.After Rome:Conversion to Christianity. pp.124 - 139
  71. ^ Charles-Edwards.After Rome:Conversion to Christianity. p.104
  72. ^ Bede.History of the English People. IV.13 and IV.16
  73. ^ Kirby. The Church in Saxon Sussex. pp.160 - 173. Kirby suggests that there would have been Christian communities already in Sussex. King Æthelwealh and his wife were already Christian, he having been baptised in Mercia. The pre-existing converts, in Sussex, would have been evangelised by the Irish church and Bede and Eddius (Wilfreds biographer) were indifferent to the Irish Church. it was also politic to play up Wilfrids role.
  74. ^ Jennifer O'Reilly.After Rome:The Art of Authority. p.144 - 148
  75. ^ a b c Bede. History of the English People. III.25 and III.26
  76. ^ Sawyer.The Oxford illustrated history of Vikings. p.1.
  77. ^ a b Sawyer.The Oxford illustrated history of Vikings. pp.2-3.
  78. ^ Standard English words which have a Scandinavian Etymology.Viking: "Northern pirate. Literally means creek dweller."
  79. ^ Starkey.Monarchy.Chapter 6: Vikings
  80. ^ Starkey.Monarchy. p.65
  81. ^ Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.AD. 793.This year came dreadful fore-warnings over the land of the Northumbrians, terrifying the people most woefully: these were immense sheets of light rushing through the air, and whirlwinds, and fiery dragons flying across the firmament. These tremendous tokens were soon followed by a great famine: and not long after, on the sixth day before the ides of January in the same year, the harrowing inroads of heathen men made lamentable havoc in the church of God in Holy-island (Lindisfarne), by rapine and slaughter.
  82. ^ a b c d Starkey. Monarchy. p.51
  83. ^ a b c d Asser. Alfred the Great. pp84 - 85.
  84. ^ Asser. Alfred the Great. p.22.
  85. ^ Medieval Sourcebook: Alfred and Guthrum's Peace
  86. ^ Wood.The Domesday Quest. Chapter 9. Domesday Roots. The Viking Impact
  87. ^ a b Starkey. Monarchy. p.63
  88. ^ Horspool. Alfred. p.102. A hide is a bit like a form of tax - it is the amount of men required to maintain and defend an area for the King. The Burghal Hideage defines the measurement as one hide would be equivalent to one man. The hidage explains for the maintenance and defence of an acres breadth of wall sixteen hides are required
  89. ^ Anglo-Saxon Chronicle 894.
  90. ^ Starkey.Monarchy. pp.68 - 69.
  91. ^ Starkey.Monarchy p.64
  92. ^ Anglo-Saxon Chronicle 891
  93. ^ Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. 891 - 896
  94. ^ a b Horspool.Why Alfred Burnt the Cakes. The Last War. pp104 - 110.
  95. ^ a b Horspool. Why Alfred Burnt the Cakes. pp10 - 12
  96. ^ Asser. Alfred the Great. III. pp.121 - 160. Examples of King Alfred's writings
  97. ^ Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. 899
  98. ^ a b c d Starkey.Monarchy. p.71
  99. ^ a b c d Yorke.Kings and Kingdoms of Early Anglo-Saxon England. p.123
  100. ^ Welch.Late Anglo-Saxon England pp.128 - 129
  101. ^ Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. 937. The ASC gives a description of the build up to the battle and the battle itself. However there is discussion by historians on the accuracy of the date.
  102. ^ Starkey.Monarchy. p.74
  103. ^ Starkey. Monarchy. p.76
  104. ^ a b Woods.The Domesday Quest. pp.107 -108
  105. ^ The Viking Network: Standard English words which have a Scandinavian Etymology.
  106. ^ a b Crystal. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language p25-6.
  107. ^ Ordnance Survey: Guide to Scandinavian origins of place names in Britain
  108. ^ a b c Starkey.Monarchy.p.76
  109. ^ Starkey. Monarchy. p.76. Unready is derived form the Anglo-Saxon Unraed meaning "badly advised or counselled"
  110. ^ Malmesbury.Chronicle of the kings of England.pp.165 - 166. In the year of our Lord's incarnation 979, Ethelred..obtaining the kingdom, occupied rather than governed it for thirty seven years. The career of his life is said to have been cruel in the beginning, wretched in the middle and disgraceful in the end.
  111. ^ a b c d e Stenton. Anglo Saxon England. p.375
  112. ^ a b c Starkey. Monarchy. p.79
  113. ^ a b c Starkey. Monarchy. p.80
  114. ^ a b Wood. Domesday Quest. p.124
  115. ^ Campbell. The Anglo Saxon State. has to be accepted that early eleventh century kings could raise larger sums in taxation than could most of their medieval successors. The numismatic evidence for the scale of the economy is extremely powerful, partly because it demonstrates how very many coins were struck, and also because it provides strong indications for extensive foreign trade.
  116. ^ Wood. Domesday Quest. p.125
  117. ^ Stenton. Anglo Saxon England. p.376
  118. ^ Stenton. Anglo Saxon England. The treaty was arranged.. by Archbishop Sigeric of Canterbury and Ælfric and Æthelweard, the ealdermen of the two west saxon provinces.
  119. ^ Williams.Aethelred the Unready.p.54
  120. ^ Williams.Æthelred the Unready. pp.52-53.
  121. ^ a b c d e Sawyer. Illustrated History of Vikings. p.76
  122. ^ a b c d e f g Woods. In Search of the Dark Ages. pp.216 - 222
  123. ^ Anglo Saxon Chronicle. 1016AD
  124. ^ Starkey. Monarchy. p.94.
  125. ^ Anglo Saxon Chronicle. 1017AD ..before the calends of August the king gave an order to fetch him the widow of the other king, Ethelred, the daughter of Richard, to wife.
  126. ^ a b c d Brown.Chibnal.Proceedings of the Battle Conference on Anglo-Norman studies.pp 160 - 161
  127. ^ a b c d Lapidge.Anglo-Saxon England. pp.108-109
  128. ^ a b c Lapidge.Anglo-Saxon England. pp.229 - 230
  129. ^ a b c d e f g h Lapidge.Anglo-Saxon England. pp.161 - 162
  130. ^ Lapidge.Anglo-Saxon England. p.230
  131. ^ a b Barlow. The Godwins. pp. 57 - 58
  132. ^ a b Barlow.The Godwins. pp.64 -65
  133. ^ a b Woods. Dark Ages. pp.229 - 230
  134. ^ Barlow.The Godwins.pp.83 -85. The value of the Godwins holdings can be derived from the Domesday Book.
  135. ^ Barlow. The Godwins pp. 116 - 123
  136. ^ Anglo Saxon Chronicle. 1065AD
  137. ^ a b Starkey. Monarchy p.119
  138. ^ a b Anglo Saxon Chronicle: 1065
  139. ^ a b c Starkey. Monarchy p.120
  140. ^ Anglo Saxon Chronicle. 1066
  141. ^ a b c d e f g h Woods.Dark Ages. pp.233 -238
  142. ^ a b c Barlow. The Godwins. Chapter 5. The lull Before the Storm.
  143. ^ Woods. Dark Ages. pp.231 - 232
  144. ^ Woods. Dark Ages. pp.238 - 240
  145. ^ Barlow. The Godwins. Chapter 7. The Collapse of the Dynasty.
  146. ^ Woods. Dark Ages. p.240
  147. ^ a b c Barlow. The Godwins. p.156
  148. ^ a b Woods. Dark Ages. p.248 - 249
  149. ^ Starkey. Monarchy. pp138 - 139
  150. ^ Vitalis. The ecclesiastical history. p.28 His camps were scattered over a surface of one hundred miles numbers of the insurgents fell beneath his vengeful sword he levelled their places of shelter to the ground wasted their lands and burnt their dwellings with all they contained. Never did William commit so much cruelty, to his lasting disgrace, he yielded to his worst impulse and set no bounds to his fury condemning the innocent and the guilty to a common fate. In the fulness of his wrath he ordered the corn and cattle with the implements of husbandry and every sort of provisions to be collected in heaps and set on fire till the whole was consumed and thus destroyed at once all that could serve for the support of life in the whole country lying beyond the Humber There followed consequently so great a scarcity in England in the ensuing years and severe famine involved the innocent and unarmed population in so much misery that in a Christian nation more than a hundred thousand souls of both sexes and all ages perished..
  151. ^ Bartlett. England under the Normans. pp.290 - 292
  152. ^ Bartlett. England under the Normans. p.1
  153. ^ Wood. The Doomsday Quest. p.141


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