Image by Polina Rytova

'Anglo-Saxon' History and Archaeology

The 'Anglo-Saxons' inhabited what would become England following the fall of Rome, from c.410, up until the invasion of the Normans in 1066.

Their lives covered some momentous social changes - the widescale (re?)adoption of Christianity, the emergence of an idea of 'England', invasion and occupation by the 'Vikings'. But there's also a lot to be learnt about the small-scale and the mundane - the workers, the idle, the forgotten.

Through a mix of historical sources and archaeology, this curriculum acts as a brief introduction to the 'Anglo-Saxon' period - its people, places, and items. The emphasis here is not on broad, sweeping, top-down history - there are plenty of excellent textbooks for this. Instead, it provides deep-dives on topics that humanise the past and connect us to the long-deceased.

This is a working document, and will be added to over time.

Curriculum

Introduction

Suggested Reading List (if you want!)

There is absolutely no necessity to read more than the website here if you don't want to. If, however, you'd like to read along with the course, or find some suggestions for deeper and more specific research, check out the list of recommendations here.

History

'Anglo-Saxon' Royal Nicknames

Many of the most famous examples of 'Anglo-Saxon' kings have vivid and surprising nicknames, summarising their lives and ruling ability. What can these tell us about kingship, power, and rememberance?

'Anglo-Saxon' Nicknames

There is no better way to humanise the people of the past than to look at their nicknames - shocking, amusing, offensive, but always incredibly close to our own lives. This is what my own personal research revolves around.

'Anglo-Saxon' Thegns

How did the newly emerged elite create a system of status and power around themselves? What were the physical trappings and external expressions of this performance of power?

'Anglo-Saxon' Textiles

How were textiles used in the period? Is the history of textiles lost forever for modern historians?

Archaeology

The 'Anglo-Saxon' Emporia

The return of urbanism after the fall of the Roman Empire, did Emporia (or Wics) represent a genuine return to a market economy?

Thegnly Buildings

What did Late 'Anglo-Saxon' elite buildings look like? How did elites use buildings and materials to express and maintain their social status.

'Anglo-Saxon' Food

What did the elite eat, and why? How can archaeologists examine and understand the history of food?

The Snape Ship Burial

An elite ship burial in East Anglia, less well-know than its Sutton Hoo counterpart, the Snape Ship Burial has important information about kingship and the presentation of power.

The Danelaw

The Archaeological Footprint of the Danelaw

What did the Vikings physically leave behind? Do they have a culturally unique footprint with which we can track their movement and settlement?

The Danelaw and Post-Colonialism

How did the culture of Scandinavia interact with local identities? Did the 'Vikings' maintain a unique cultural identity, or did they adopt, adapt and hybridise with local systems of power?

River Kings by Cat Jarman: A Review

A wonderful introduction to the Danelaw (and the broader 'Viking' context) through an archaeological lens.

Sources

The Electronic Sawyer - Charters

A free online database of Anglo-Saxon charters across the time period.

The Corpus of Early Medieval English Coins

Based at Cambridge's Fitzwilliam Museum, this database contains a vast amount of numismatic evidence, including lots of high-quality photos.

Old English Poetry

Dr Hostetter's Old English Poetry Project, providing a free online translation of the majority of the corpus,

Domesday Book Resources

Rounding off the end of the 'Anglo-Saxon' period, the Domesday book is a crucial text for understanding the late 'Anglo-Saxon' state and society.

Further Resources

Learning Early Medieval Languages

Websites and books for learning Latin, Old English, Old Norse and Old French, including some great free resources.

The British Museum: Sutton Hoo

The finds from England's most famous burial site are held in the British Museum. This includes a wonderful video series about the helmet in particular.

Early Medieval Reading List

My personal reading list, with some suggestions on further reading for the entire early medieval period.

Create Your Own Bayeux Tapestry!

Some light-hearted fun, this website lets you design your own Bayeux Tapestry

The PAS Archaeology Database

The UK's archaeology database lets anyone explore the recorded finds across the country. Although this covers a very broad range of chronology, there is a lot of 'Anglo-Saxon' archaeological evidence here, much of which has never been properly analysed.

The Yale Early Medieval Lecture Series

Available for free on Youtube, this excellent lecture series covers the whole period from the fall of Rome to the year 1000. There's some important background context f0r England within Europe, along with a very good lecture on the British Isles itself.

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