Anglo Saxon Period – 410 to 1066

Introduction to the Anglo Saxon Period

Anglo Saxons were Germanic people who came to Britain from north-eastern Europe. Their period is believed to be from c. 450 AD to c. 1060 AD. There is a huge influence of Anglo Saxons on modern-day English society.

Anglo Saxon England

The language of Anglo-Saxons, known as Anglo-Saxon or Old English, is the basis of the formation of the Modern English language.

The surviving words of Old English form a key part of the vocabulary in the Modern English language. The English culture today is also influenced by Anglo-Saxon culture. Following are some key aspects of the Anglo-Saxon period.


Anglo Saxon Period and Roman Empire

The period before the Roman Empire is regarded as the Migration Period. This was a time when many tribes across Europe were migrating from the East to the West.

These include:

  • Lombards
  • Frisii
  • Goths
  • Angles
  • Vandals
  • Saxons
  • Suebi
  • Franks

roman soldier g15d46668e 640

These tribes were pushed westwards by the Slavs, Huns, Alans, Avars, and Bulgars.

Romans had built Hadrian’s Wall in the south of Britain. Roman presence in Britain helped avert the onslaught of the migrating tribes from the continent.

Roman presence remained strong until the 4th century when Roman hold over Britain began to weaken. This coincided with increased raids and migrations of Anglo Saxons to Britain.

Hadrian’s Wall

Hadrian’s Wall

Migration to Briton

The main factor in the migration of Anglo-Saxons to Britain was the pressure of other tribes who were migrating further from the east.

There was another important reason for migration. A British king Vortigern had invited Anglo-Saxons to defend his kingdom against the attacks of Picts and Scotti.

This invitation opened the doors to Britain for Anglo Saxons.

Bretons Celtic People

The exact number of Anglo-Saxon migrants is not known for certain. A rough estimate suggests a figure of around 100,000. The local Brythonic people are likely to have outnumbered Anglo-Saxons by at least four to one.

Anglo Saxon Clothes

However, the Anglo Saxons eventually displaced these natives and settled across most of England.

The Britons were also known as Ancient Britons or as Celtic Britons were Celtic people who lived in Great Britain from around the time of the Iron Age into the Medieval Period.

Celtic Cross celts g8602f7950 640

Anglo Saxon Kingdoms

After arriving in present-day England from the 5th century onwards, Anglo-Saxons started to settle in the region.

The areas where Anglo-Saxons settled came to be called

  • Sussex
  • Middlesex
  • Essex
  • Wessex
Anglo Saxon Settlements Map

Anglo Saxon settlements in England in the early period of 400-500

Kent became the home of the Jutes who started to call themselves the Kentings. The Angles inhabited East Anglia. Then Anglo-Saxons started to name their villages and small towns after the names of their Gods.

Anglo Saxon Life

Anglo-Saxons mainly settled near agricultural centers and rivers. These small towns eventually evolved into kingdoms.

The major Anglo-Saxon kingdoms were

  • Sussex
  • Wessex
  • Middle Anglia
  • Essex
  • Northumbria
  • East Anglia

Mercia.All of these kingdoms co-existed from 650 to 800 AD.

Evolution of Saxon Culture

Anglo-Saxons were from three tribes namely Angles, Jutes, and Saxon. The English society and culture owe many things to the Anglo Saxons.

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 the best examples.

Anglo Saxon Timeline

Anglo-Saxon culture was rich in arts, literature, poetry, language, and manuscripts.

The Anglo-Saxon society was divided into two groups, namely freemen and slaves. The freemen had further social positions such as kings, nobles, etc. Women enjoyed a significant degree of freedom in the Anglo-Saxon period.

Anglo Saxon History

Conversion to Christianity

Christianity in Anglo-Saxon England was introduced in the era of Pope Gregory the Great.

He chose Augustine to Christianize the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Kent in 595. This kingdom was chosen because Aethelberht, Kent’s ruler, had married a Christian princess named Bertha.

jesus christ gfcfe27034 640

Aethelberht accepted Christianity and churches were built in the whole kingdom. From Kent, Christianity spread throughout the whole region.

Christianity had a profound influence on Anglo-Saxon culture. It led to a blend of the local pagan traditions and Christianity.

Gradually, other kings accepted Christianity as well. The conflict between pagans and Christians would continue for centuries.

candles ga10b7c20e 640

Wars with Vikings

Anglo Saxon period From the 8th century onward, Vikings began to attack the British Isles, bringing them into conflict with the Anglo Saxons. Initially confined to raids, Vikings would eventually launch large-scale invasions of Anglo-Saxon England.

Viking Longboats viking raids with sail

In fact, Vikings were successful in defeating most of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms and establishing their rule over vast areas of England.

Some of the most important battles of this conflict were fought between the armies of King Alfred the Great and the Vikings.

Alfred the Great Famous Anglo Saxon Kings

There was a resumption of Viking raids on England in the reign of King Aethelred. These raids brought people to their knees in 1009.

The Reign of King Alfred

The reign of King Alfred is a very important part of the Anglo Saxon period not because of military or political victories but for his love for religion, learning, and the spread of writings.

The condition of England was not good when he was the ruler of England. He knew the importance of learning and literature. Alfred himself translated a book named Cura Pastoralis which he then made his guiding book.

King Alfred The Great Medieval Kings Illustration

He saw a king as a shepherd for his people. Danes attacked his kingdom many times. He was even forced to spend a few months in the marshes. But afterward, he defeated the Danes.

Alfred the Great portrait

Alfred the Great King of Wessex

Norman Conquest and Decline

The Norman Conquest of Anglo-Saxon England took place in 1066. It was accomplished by the Duke of Normandy, William the Conqueror, along with his Breton, French, Flemish, and Norman soldiers.

King William The Conqueror Medieval KIngs

William defeated the last Anglo Saxon king, Harold, at the famous Battle of the Stamford Bridge. He then effectively replaced the entire Anglo-Saxon nobility in England by installing his own nobles and lords.

Norman Conquest Europe Medieval Times Bayeux Tapestry

He also built castles across England to subdue the local lords. His conquest ended Anglo-Saxon rule in England for good, forcing the Anglo-Saxon nobility into exile or poverty.

dover norman stone castle

Anglo Saxon Summary

        • Anglo-Saxons were Germanic people who started migrating to England in the 5th century.
        • They were forced to migrate by the migration of other tribes from the east.
        • Anglo-Saxons established settlements across England.
        • Their settlements gradually evolved into seven kingdoms.
        • The Anglo-Saxon culture was originally Germanic but was influenced by Celtic culture as well.

Anglo Saxon Helmet Sutton Hoo

        • Christianity had a great influence over Anglo-Saxon culture.
        • Anglo Saxons fought a number of wars with the Vikings beginning in the 9th century
        • The reign of King Alfred was the golden time of the Anglo-Saxon period.
        • Anglo-Saxon rule ended with the Norman Conquest in 1066.