British Studies


Section 2

History of the British Isles

Class 8. Anglo-Saxon England

Sub-Roman Britain (5th century AD)

After the Romans retreated from Britain in the early 5th century BC, its Romanised population remained almost defenseless. Yet for a while they tried to preserve the Roman culture and way of life. Migration of Anglo-Saxon tribes to the British Isles during the 5th century ended these attempts.


Key terms and notions: Arthurian literature


Anglo-Saxon England (5th century AD - 1066)

The invasion of Anglo-Saxon tribes to what is now England was successful, though it took over a century to submit the Romano-British (Celtic) population. By the beginning of the 7th century, seven Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms known as the Heptarchy had largely formed.


Some of these kingdoms survived until now in form of English counties. Since the 6th century, the Anglo-Saxons were also Christianised by Irish and Roman missionaries.


Since the late 8th century, the Vikings became a major threat for the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. What started as mere raids, in the 9th century became an organised campaign to conquer all Anglo-Saxon England. It was stopped by Alfred the Great, but the victory wasn't complete - Anglo-Saxon lands were divided into English and Viking territories, the latter also called the 'Danelaw'.


In the 10th century England was unified into one state, which in the early 11th century became a subject of the Danish Empire. This caused a succession dispute, which in 1066 resulted in the clash of three rulers: King Harold of England, King Harald of Norway, and Duke William of Normandy. It ended with the victory of the latter, which meant that England would be dominated by a new power - the Normans.


Important events: Anglo-Saxon invasion, Christianisation of Anglo-Saxons, Viking invastions, Unification of England, Battle of Stamford Bridge, Battle of Hastings

Key terms and notions: Romano-British, heptarchy, Danelaw

Key figures: King Offa of Mercia, King Alfred, William of Normandy

Geographic objects: Seven kingdoms of the Heptarchy



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