The Anglo Saxons were a Germanic people who started migrating to Britain during the 5th century. Their migration from the previous homeland in northern Europe was prompted by the pressure exerted by incoming invaders into Eastern Europe, such as the Huns and Slavs.
The Anglo-Saxons effectively replaced the Britons influence in Britain, becoming the lords and rulers of Britain by the 6th century. They mostly inhabited the southern and eastern portions of England.
In time, they laid the foundations of England and turned it into a consolidated Kingdom before it was overrun by the Normans in the 11th century. Following the Norman Conquest, the Anglo Saxon ascendancy in England came to a permanent end.
According to extant Roman sources, the Roman forces in Britain began to withdraw in 410 A.D. in order to protect the Roman Empire’s core territories from attacks by Germanic tribes. This was a time when Jutes, Angles and Saxons were beginning to attack Britain and subdue the local Britons populations. The Celtic Picts and Scots were raiding Briton populations, so they sought the help of incoming Anglo-Saxons against them.
Britons couldn’t withstand the onslaught of the Picts and Scots in the north of British Isles and by the mid-5th century, they decided to forge a compromise with the incoming Anglo-Saxons. A Briton ruler in Kent invited Anglo-Saxons to defend the region against the Picts and Scots. The Anglo-Saxons defeated these attackers and in time, invaded most of the Kent region, establishing it as their earliest stronghold on the British Isles.
In the 470s, a sizable body of Saxons in the leadership of Ælle landed in the area of modern-day Sussex. These Saxons were directly pitted against the local Briton population and after a war lasting months, finally defeated them and established their hegemony in the region. Ælle established Sussex and became its king, being one of the earliest kings.
Another body of Saxons landed and arrived in the Winchester area in 495 A.D. They defeated the local Briton resistance and established the Kingdom of Wessex under Cerdic. In 527 A.D., a third body of Saxons arrived inland between Thames and St. Albans. Here they established a third Saxon Kingdom, the Kingdom of Essex.
After the first wave of Saxon invaders, the late 6th century saw the arrival of Angles, another Germanic tribes. The Angles avoided the regions settled by the Saxons and established their kingdoms in the north, east and south of Britain. In 547, the first body of Angles arrived and established the Kingdom of Northumbria. In 575, two new tribes of Angles arrived and established the Kingdom of East Anglia. Finally, a third wave of Angles arrived in 585 and occupied the East Midlands, establishing the Kingdom of Mercia.
By 613, the seven different settlements inhabited by Saxons and Angles blossomed into proper kingdoms, pitted against each other for control of land. The earliest Kings to weld most of these kingdoms into a single kingdom hailed from Northumbria. In most of the 7th century, Northumbrian kings had dominance in most of England and an effective control over most regions. By the late 7th century, the tide was turning in favour of the Mercian Kings who began ruling over vast portions of England. By the mid-8th century, the King of Mercia had the entire English territory under Northumbria under his rule and has cordial relations with Continental rulers such as Charlemagne.
Beginning in early 9th century, the tide turned in favour of Saxon rulers in Wessex. During the first quarter of the 9th century, Wessex rulers defeated the military might of the Mercian. Under Wessex King Egbert, the entire region of England was welded into a single kingdom by 825. England remained a single entity ruled by a single King until Vikings followed their frequent raiding of English shores by a large conquering army in 870.
A large Danish army marched on major English territories in 870 and deposed the rulers in Mercia, Northumbria and East Anglia. The Vikings then established settlements in Mercia, although most of the army continued to plunder and pose threat to the still-powerful Saxon Kingdom of Wessex. In 878, the conflict came to a head when Alfred the Great decisively defeated Danes at Edington and continued this success by building fortifications along the south of England.
During the 10th century, the Saxon kings Wessex married into Anglian nobility in order to weld the Anglo-Saxons into a single people. This was the era when the term “Englisc” was coined and became the precursor of the later “English”. In the 10th century, the Wessex rulers eventually became the Kings of the whole of England. They codified laws, formalised their rule and established the monarchical institutions.
In early 11th century, Danish Vikings started raiding on English areas once again. In 1013, the Danish King Swein Forkbeard conquered the whole of England and became the King of the country. After him, the control briefly reverted to the Wessex line before Forkbeard’s son Cnut regained the Kingdom and established himself king in 1015.
With the death of Cnut and the failure of any Danes to succeed him on the throne of England, the rule of the country reverted to Wessex rulers. However, this was short-lived as during the reign of Harold II, William The Conqueror landed a huge Norman army on the shores of England and made a claim to English throne. He confronted the last Anglo-Saxon King, Harold II, at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and slayed him, defeating the English army. William proceeded to take over the control of whole of England and replace the Anglo-Saxon nobility with a new Norman nobility. Most of the Anglo-Saxon aristocracy escaped to the Continent, although the population remained predominantly Anglo-Saxon.