Anglo-Saxons were the people who once inhabited and ruled the areas which are present-day England and Wales. They were Germanic people who lived in these regions from the 5th century to the time of the 1066 Norman Conquest.
“The Anglo-Saxon period was a time of great change and upheaval, marked by wars, invasions, and cultural transformations.”Martin Wall, Professor of English, University of Leicester
“Anglo-Saxon society was hierarchical, but it was also characterized by a strong sense of community and a shared sense of identity.”St. John Simpson, Senior Curator, Department of the Middle East, British Museum
The Anglo-Saxon language is called ‘Old English‘ because many words of English are derived from it. The systems developed by Anglo-Saxons became the basis of modern English systems. The legal system is one of these examples.
The works of Old English include sermons, epic poetry, legal works, hagiography, and chronicles mainly including Anglo-Saxons Chronicles, riddles, legal works, and others. 400 extant manuscripts found from that period are written in the Roman alphabet and Anglo-Saxon runes.
“Anglo-Saxon art and literature are some of the greatest achievements of the medieval world, full of intricate beauty and profound meaning.”Michael Lapidge, Emeritus Fellow of Clare College, University of Cambridge
All the literature was written at that time but due to the efforts of King Alfred, the works were saved and translated into Old English. The leather was mostly used to write on and sewn into books.
The ink came from oak galls. Unlike rhyme, Anglo-Saxon poetry is organized around alliteration. There are three major strands of their literature: epic poetry, religious poetry, and riddles.
Christian missionaries brought manuscripts to Anglo-Saxon lands from the Mediterranean to assist them in the establishment of the early Anglo-Saxon church. St Augustine’s Gospels are one of the books that came to England at that time from Italy.
The books from other countries laid the foundation of text, script, and decoration in Anglo-Saxon England and formed part of the Anglo-Saxon culture.
Anglo-Saxons then produced their own books. The Bible also came as a model to Anglo-Saxon land and was a very important part of Anglo-Saxon culture.
A magnificent 11th-century gospel was then produced at Winchester. King Alfred also contributed to writing or assisting manuscripts.
“The Anglo-Saxon period is the bedrock of English history, a time that shaped the language, culture, and political identity of the English people.”Simon Keynes, Elrington and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon, University of Cambridge
Anglo-Saxon was the language of present-day England and areas of Scotland. Anglo-Saxon is a West Germanic language that is closely related to Old Saxon and Old Frisian.
The grammar of Old English is also related to Classical Latin. Some of the features of Old English were pronouns, finite verbs, adjectives, and nouns.
The main difference from Latin is that verbs have no synthetic passive voice and can be conjugated in only two tenses.
It is believed by many linguists that Anglo-Saxon people received influence from local languages, especially Common Brittonic. Many grammatical changes observed in English were due to the influence of Brittonic.
The time of Anglo-Saxons from the 5th century to the Norman Conquest (1066) was a time of wars and battles.
Anglo-Saxons fought with each other and with others during this period. It was a custom to bury males with weapons. The armies were mustered for both offense and defense.
“The Anglo-Saxons were a vibrant and diverse people, whose culture blended Germanic, Celtic, and Christian influences into a unique and dynamic whole.”Peter S. Baker, Professor of English, University of Virginia
It is said that the training of a soldier started in his childhood through warfare games. There are no significant references to military training and strategy. King Alfred made a defensive strategy by building fortified buildings.
The early religious history of the 5th and 6th centuries was mainly dominated by ‘pagan’ religious beliefs. The early society of Anglo-Saxons was much attached to the horse. Horses were associated with the gods.
Horses played a major role in funerary practices and other rituals. Anglo-Saxons worshiped in temples, sacred wells, hills, or trees. Later, Christianity found its way into the Anglo-Saxon territory from Rome through monks and monasticism.
In the beginning, it was not very well accepted by Anglo-Saxons. Then slowly Christianity grew in England and churches were established. The Roman tradition of monasticism was adopted in the region.
The kingship fueled freedom, societal advantage, and relationship opportunities for the elite of Anglo-Saxon society. This helped the Anglo-Saxon language and culture to prosper.
Ties were typically forged with a person, not a cause. The power of a kingdom depended on the strength of the leader-king. There was no concept of underlying administration.
God and King were joined in the peoples’ minds with the help of the church. King Alfred is one of the greatest kings of Anglo-Saxon history. He made many reforms in the military. In his reign, Anglo-Saxon culture, language, and literature flourished.
There were two main classes in Anglo-Saxon society i.e. slaves and free men. Both classes had a hierarchical structure. There were many groups of free men and many types of slaves.
The important ranks among freemen were the king, the nobleman or thegn, and the ordinary freeman or ceorl. The system was based on the value of their wergild or ‘man price.’
Women enjoyed considerable independence. They were ‘oath worthy’ and a married woman could own property.
There were big penalties for sexual and other offenses against them. A bride’s price was paid to the relatives of the bride and a morning gift was given by the bridegroom.
Anglo Saxon dwellings and settlements evolved significantly over time. During the early period, Anglo Saxons mostly lived in huts constructed from wood. Straw was used as the main material for the thatched roofs on these huts.
These huts ranged from small to very large, the largest housing entire halls and typically belonging to the chief.
The settlements were also marked by unique features. There were a series of buildings called Anglo-Saxon royal villa in which the king was accommodated during his visits to his land to give justice and collect rents.
People came to the king to have their disputes settled, lands granted, policy debated, appointments made, and to make trades.
Early Anglo-Saxon buildings were simple. They were built using timber and thatched roofing. Anglo-Saxons constructed small towns near rivers sites used for ports and near centers of agriculture.
There was significant diversity in the sizes of the buildings, though most were square or rectangular.
A sunken floor with a shallow pit over which the plank floor was suspended could be seen in many houses. Stone was used in constructing the churches.
The first church in the Anglo-Saxon region was built in Kent in 597.
The Anglo-Saxon World” by Nicholas J. Higham and Martin J. Ryan
This book offers a comprehensive overview of Anglo-Saxon culture, covering topics such as religion, politics, art, and literature.
“Beowulf: A New Translation” by Seamus Heaney
This is a modern translation of the classic Anglo-Saxon epic poem, Beowulf, which tells the story of a heroic warrior who battles monsters and dragons.
“The Oxford Illustrated History of the Vikings” edited by Peter Sawyer
This book provides a detailed account of the Vikings, who were a significant influence on Anglo-Saxon culture, particularly in terms of language and literature.
“The Anglo-Saxons: A History of the Beginnings of England” by Marc Morris
This book traces the history of the Anglo-Saxons from their arrival in Britain to the Norman Conquest, exploring their society, culture, and politics.
“The Sutton Hoo Story: Encounters with Early England” by Martin Carver
This book tells the story of the famous archaeological site at Sutton Hoo, where a treasure trove of Anglo-Saxon artifacts was discovered, shedding light on the culture and society of early England.
1. British Museum (London, UK)
The British Museum has an extensive collection of Anglo-Saxon artifacts, including the famous
2. Sutton Hoo treasure. Jorvik Viking Centre (York, UK)
The Jorvik Viking Centre features exhibits on Viking and Anglo-Saxon life in York, including reconstructed buildings and interactive displays.
3. West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village (Bury St Edmunds, UK)
West Stow is an open-air museum that recreates an Anglo-Saxon village, allowing visitors to experience daily life in early medieval England.
4. The Higgins Bedford (Bedford, UK)
The Higgins Bedford features a collection of Anglo-Saxon artifacts, including objects from the nearby Sutton Hoo burial site.
5. Museum of Somerset (Taunton, UK)
The Museum of Somerset has a collection of Anglo-Saxon artifacts, including objects from the important Saxon settlement at Ham Hill.