Anglo Saxons were Germanic tribes which came from northern Europe to British Isles during the 5th and 6th centuries. At the time, Britain was inhabited by a local population of the Romano-Bretons. Saxons arrived first and established their kingdoms, subduing the Breton populace. They were followed by Angles who came to British Isles and established their own kingdoms.
In time, these two tribes interacted and intermingled, leading to the emergence of a common Anglo-Saxon identity and culture. This led to the establishment of Anglo-Saxon kings of England towards the 10th and 11th centuries.
Arrival in British Isles
The Anglo Saxons arrived on the British Isles in multiple waves, beginning as early as the 5th century. Saxons first raided the British shores but were held back by Roman fortifications. During the first quarter of the century, Roman forces were beginning to leave Britain for good. The Breton rulers left in their wake later invited the Saxon populations to settle in southern Britain in return for their defence of Bretons against raiding Picts and Scotis. The Saxons agreed and established their earliest settlements in southern Britain.
Anglo Saxon Kingdoms
Later in the 5th century, Saxons revolted against the Breton rulers. In Kent, they were successful in seizing control and establishing a kingdom of their own. In time, more waves of Saxons arrived on the Isles and by the 6th century, Saxons had established four kingdoms in south and west Britain. These were the Essex, Wessex, Sussex and Middlesex.
This was followed by the arrival of the Angles in multiple waves who, in turn, established their own kingdoms in north and east Britain. Three Angle kingdoms were established. From the 7th century onwards, these kingdoms began vying for greater control in Britain. This led to frequent wars and the hegemony of one kingdom at the expense of others.
Religion of the Anglo Saxons
The Anglo Saxons were originally Germanic tribes who held pagan religious beliefs. After their settlements in England and a change in lifestyle, they were acquainted with Christianity during the 6th century. The earliest Anglo-Saxons in Britain to convert to Christianity were those in the Kingdom of Kent.
This was followed by the Kingdom of Northumbria and other Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in Britain. By the 9th century, a vast majority of the Anglo Saxon population in Britain had converted. This was a key factor in helping forge a unified Anglo-Saxon identity, despite the difference between Angles and Saxons.
Establishment of a Unified England
By the 9th century, one of the Anglo-Saxons kingdoms would frequently emerge powerful enough to project its power all over England. In the 10th century, the Wessex kings were powerful enough to forge all Anglo Saxon kingdoms into a single unit.
This led to the establishment of a shared Anglo Saxon identity in the face of a Viking threat. However, soon after a genuine unification of England under Anglo Saxons kings, the Norman Conquest came about in 1066 and the Anglo Saxons were permanently replaced as the rulers of England.