Anglo Saxons were two distinct Germanic tribes who came to settle on the British Isles following the decline of Roman control over Britain. They were initially invited by the Celts, who originally inhabited Britain, to help guard them against the Picts and Scoti tribes.
Anglo Saxons successfully warded off the threats of these tribes and then overcame the local Celt population as well. In time, they established their own separate kingdoms all over Britain which eventually coalesced to become a single unified Kingdom of the Anglo Saxon kings.
The Anglo Saxon kings continued to rule Britain intermittently until their rule came to a definitive end after the Norman Conquest of 11th century.
Arrival of the Anglo Saxons
Anglo Saxons originally belonged to the Germanic tribes during the Roman times. By 5th century, they had begun arriving in Britain to settle down. Their arrival took place in different waves, each new group of settlers establishing their own settlements in different parts of modern-day England.
By the 6th century, Anglo Saxons were the dominant force all over England and had established kingdoms with ruling families and an Anglo Saxon nobility. It is historically accepted that the Anglo Saxons effectively laid the foundations of England in this period.
Beginning in the 5th century, the Anglo Saxons would continue to be the most influential political force in England until the 11th century.
The Viking Threat and the Anglo Saxons
By the end of the 8th century, Vikings had begun to raid the shores of Britain. In the 9th century, they began raiding more inland and successfully looted and plundered the Anglo Saxon populations.
The Vikings were a formidable force which successfully defeated the Anglo Saxons in many encounters and effectively took over many Anglo Saxon kingdoms in England. Their raids also led Anglo Saxons to unite more closely and forge a definite Anglo-Saxon identity.
By the middle of the 9th century, Vikings had settled in large populations in Mercia, making their presence a permanent threat to the Anglo Saxon rule in Britain. This culminated in the 11th century conquest of England by Danish Vikings, effectively eroding the Anglo Saxon rule.
Although the Anglo Saxons kings were able to return to power soon after, they were finally ousted permanently by the Norman invaders.
The Anglo Saxons and the Norman Conquest
Anglo Saxon rulers had resumed control of all Britain in 1042 under Edward The Confessor. His death, however, precipitated a succession crisis which led to the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. The conquest of England by the French-Norman army proved to be a turning point in the history of England.
This conquest ousted the Anglo Saxon rulers from the English throne permanently. At the same time, William The Conqueror replaced the entire Anglo Saxon landowning nobility with a new French-Norman nobility. Consequently, England no longer had any Anglo Saxon nobles left.
Impact of the Anglo Saxons
Although the Anglo Saxons aristocracy was permanently displaced in England, the Anglo Saxon culture left a permanent impact on England. The name England itself, and the Old English language, both were developed by and associated with the Anglo Saxons.
Old English developed a vast body of literature, borrowing richly from the Germanic origins of the Anglo Saxons. It was the blending of Old English with the Norman French which ultimately evolved into Middle English, a precursor to modern-day English language.