Key Points

The Anglo-Saxons were comprised of world from Germanic people who moved to good Britain from continental Europe; they inhabited the island native 450-1066.In the 5th century, Britain dropped from roman rule and also established an independent society and society.In the 6th century, Christianity was re-established and also Britain started to grow as a center for discovering and cultural production.By the 7th century, smaller sized territories began coalescing into kingdoms, with the kingdom of Mercia one of the most dominant.The nine century saw the climb of the wessex kingdom, specifically with King Alfred the Great, who fashioned himself “King of the Anglo-Saxons” and oversaw boosting unity the the English people and improved the kingdom’s legitimate system and military structure and also his people’s top quality of life.During the course of the 10th century, the West Saxon kings extended their power an initial over Mercia, climate over the southern Danelaw, and also finally over Northumbria, thereby imposing a sembeant of political unity.This culture continued come develop and also thrive till the Norman conquest in 1066.The Anglo-Saxon culture was centered approximately three great of men: the functioning man, the churchman, and also the warrior.

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Hadrian’s Wall

A protective fortification the ran native the banks of the flow Tyne near the north Sea to the Solway Firth on the ireland Sea, and also was the northern limit of the roman inn Empire.

Norman Conquest

The 11th-century invasion and occupation that England through an military of Norman, Breton, and French soldiers led by fight it out William II that Normandy.

King Alfred the Great

King of wesdex from 871 to 899, well-known as a learned and merciful male who motivated education and also improved his kingdom’s legal system and military structure and also his people’s top quality of life.


The Anglo-Saxons were a world who inhabited an excellent Britain native the 5th century. They comprised civilization from Germanic tribes who moved to the island from continent Europe, their descendants, and also indigenous British groups who adopted some facets of Anglo-Saxon society and language. The Anglo-Saxon duration denotes the period of British background between about 450 and also 1066, after their initial settlement and also up until the Norman Conquest.

The Anglo-Saxon duration includes the production of one English nation, with many of the aspects that make it through today, including regional government of shires and hundreds. Throughout this period, Christianity to be re-established and there was a flowering of literature and also language. Charters and also law were likewise instituted.

The background of the Anglo-Saxons is the history of a social identity. It arisen from divergent groups in association with the people’s fostering of Christianity, and also was integral to the facility of various kingdoms. Intimidated by expanded Danish invasions and also occupation of eastern England, this identification persevered; it dominated until after the Norman Conquest.

Anglo-Saxon History

The early on Anglo-Saxon duration covers the period of middle ages Britain the starts from the end of roman inn rule. By the year 400, southerly Britain—Britain listed below Hadrian’s Wall—was a peripheral part of the Western roman Empire, occasionally lost to rebellion or invasion, yet until then always eventually recovered. Roughly 410, brothers slipped past direct imperial manage into a phase which has normally been termed “sub-Roman.”

In the second fifty percent of the sixth century, four structures contributed to the advancement of Anglo-Saxon society: the position and also freedoms the the ceorl (peasants), the smaller tribal locations coalescing into larger kingdoms, the elite occurring from warrior to kings, and also Irish monasticism developing under Finnian.

In 565, Columba, a monk indigenous Ireland who studied at the monastic institution of Moville under Saint Finnian, got to Iona as a self-imposed exile. The influence of the monastery the Iona would prosper into what Peter Brown has explained as one “unusually extensive spiritual empire,” which “stretched from western Scotland deep come the southwest into the heart of Ireland and, to the southeast, it reached down throughout northern Britain, through the affect of its sister monastery Lindisfarne.” Michael Drout calls this period the “Golden Age,” when learning thrived with a renaissance in classic knowledge.

By 660 the politics map of Lowland Britain had actually developed, with smaller territories coalescing right into kingdoms; indigenous this time bigger kingdoms started overcoming the smaller kingdoms. The establishment of kingdoms, with a details king being known as one overlord, occurred out of an early loose structure. Simon Keynes argues that the 8th century–9th century was period of economic and also social growing that developed stability both below the Thames and over the Humber. However, between the Humber and also Thames, one political entity, the kingdom of Mercia, flourished in influence and also power and attracted attention in the East.

England, 650. A political map of britain c. 650 (the names are in modern English); the black text denotes kingdoms ruled by Anglo-Saxons.

The ninth century experienced the increase of Wessex, from the foundations laid by King Egbert in the first quarter of the century to the achievements of King Alfred the good in its close up door decades. Alfred successfully protected his kingdom versus the Viking effort at conquest and became the leading ruler in England. He to be the an initial king the the West saxon guy to format himself “King the the Anglo-Saxons.” Alfred had a reputation together a learned and also merciful man with a gracious and level-headed nature who urged education and improved his kingdom’s legit system and military structure and also his people’s top quality of life.

During the food of the 10th century, the West Saxon kings expanded their power first over Mercia, climate over the southern Danelaw, and also finally end Northumbria, thereby imposing a sembleance of politics unity on individuals who nevertheless would remain conscious of their corresponding customs and their separate pasts. The prestige and pretensions of the monarchy increased, the organizations of government strengthened, and also kings and their agents sought in various means to establish social order. This to be the society that would watch three intrusions in the 11th century, the 3rd of which was led efficiently by william of Normandy in 1066 and also transferred political preeminence to the Normans.

Anglo-Saxon society and Society

The visible Anglo-Saxon culture can be seen in the material society of buildings, dress styles, illuminated texts, and also grave goods. Behind the symbolic nature that these cultural emblems, there are strong elements the tribal and also lordship ties. The elite claimed themselves majesties who occurred burhs (fortifications or strengthened settlements), and identified their roles and also peoples in Biblical terms. Over all, as Helena Hamerow has observed, “local and also extended kin teams remained…the vital unit of production throughout the Anglo-Saxon period.” The impacts persist in the 21st century as, according to a study published in in march 2015, the hereditary makeup that British populaces today shows departments of the defect political devices of the early Anglo-Saxon period.

The ties of loyalty to a lord were come his person, no to his station; there to be no real concept of patriotism or commitment to a cause. This explains why dynasties waxed and waned therefore quickly; a kingdom was just as strong as the leader-king. There to be no underlying administration or administration to maintain any kind of gains past the life time of a leader.

The culture of the Anglo-Saxons was specifically solidified and also cultivated by King Alfred. The major kingdoms had grown by soaking up smaller principalities, and also the method by i beg your pardon they did it and also the character their kingdoms obtained as a result represent among the significant themes of the center Saxon period. A “good” king to be a generous king who won the support that would ensure his supremacy over other kingdoms with his wealth. King Alfred’s digressions in his translate in of Boethius’s Consolation the Philosophy noted these observations about the resources that every king needed:

In the case of the king, the resources and tools through which to rule are that he have his land fully manned: the must have praying men, fighting men and also working men. Girlfriend know additionally that there is no these tools no king might make his capacity known. Another aspect the his sources is that he must have actually the method of assistance for his tools, the three classes that men. These, then, room their way of support: land to live on, gifts, weapons, food, ale, clothing and also whatever else is essential for each of the 3 classes the men.

The very first group the King Alfred’s three-fold Anglo-Saxon society are praying men—people who work at prayer. Back Christianity dominates the religious background of the Anglo-Saxons, life in the fifth and sixth centuries was dominated by “pagan” spiritual beliefs v a Scando-Germanic heritage. Practically every poem from before the Norman Conquest, no matter exactly how Christian the theme, is steeped in pagan symbolism, yet the integration of pagan ideas into the brand-new faith goes beyond the literary sources. Anglo-Saxon England found ways to synthesize the religion of the church with the present “northern” customs and also practices. Therefore the switch of the Anglo-Saxons was not simply their switching from one practice to another, however making something fresh the end of their old inheritance and their brand-new beliefs and learning. Monasticism, and also not simply the church, was at the center of Anglo-Saxon Christian life. The role of churchmen was analogous with that of the warrior waging heavenly warfare.

The 2nd element the Alfred’s culture is fighting men. The topic of war and the Anglo-Saxons is a curiously neglected one; however, it is vital element of their society.

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The 3rd aspect the Alfred’s society is functioning men. Helena Hamerow argued that the prevailing model of working life and settlement, particularly for the at an early stage period, was among shifting settlement and building lack kinship. The mid-Saxon period saw diversification, the advance of enclosures, the beginning of the toft system, closer administration of livestock, the steady spread the the mould-board plough, “informally regular plots,” and a greater permanence, with further settlement consolidation thereafter foreshadowing post-Conquest villages. The later periods witnessed a proliferation of “service features,” consisting of barns, mills, and also latrines, many markedly on high-status sites. Transparent the Anglo-Saxon period, Helena Hamerow suggested: “local and also extended kin groups remained…the important unit of production.”


West Stow Anglo-Saxon village. Panorama the the reconstructed 7th-century village, characteristic of the Anglo-Saxon peasant villages.