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'Anglo-Saxon' History and Archaeology: A Reading List

As an introduction to the 'Anglo-Saxon' history and archaeology course I have put together (available free and online here), I've compiled a reading list of suggestions. It's often hard to track down these resources even when someone name-drops them so I've included links to them all and, where possible, their free versions.

While this reading list attempts to be substantial, it is far from exhaustive. There are many excellent works not referenced, and many sites and texts not included. Nor is it necessarily the best place to start your very first steps (although the Introductions and Overviews section is valuable for those who know nothing yet).

What this list does include is a number of texts, both books and peer-reviewed online articles, that lead down interesting and important avenues of historical analysis, and lead to more questions. #ComissionsEarned (This post includes Amazon Affiliate links) - As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. If you want to buy any of these books do please consider using the links provided - it doesn't effect the price you pay at all, but I get a little kick-back.

This is a (hastily assembled) working document and will be added to over time - make sure to check back.

Introductions and Overviews

Building Anglo-Saxon England, John Blair

I've had the great fortune of being taught by Blair - he is, without a doubt, a genius and this book is perhaps my single greatest recommendation. Although the focus here is primarily archaeological, Blair treads the line between archaeology and history wonderfully. Particularly impressive is Blair's use of anthropological comparison in an attempt to understand the people of the past more accurately.

The Anglo-Saxons, Campbell

Older perhaps than many works, and not as cutting edge in its content, I still stand by Campbell's masterful work as an amazing introduction and broad overview of the period. The pictures are also wonderful

The Anglo-Saxons, Marc Morris

Because it is so new, I must admit to not having got round to reading Morris' new book. However, it is receiving very positive reviews, and Morris is an excellent scholar and wonderful communicator, and I would be confident in recommending any of his works.

The Oxford Handbook of Anglo-Saxon Archaeology, Hamerow, Hinton, Crawford

Wide-ranging and extensive, this hefty tome covers almost everything related to 'Anglo-Saxon' material culture, and is a wonderful introduction. It is, however, a substantial investment and outside the monetary range of most people - look for it in libraries.

Available on Amazon here.

Texts and Sources

The Anglo-Saxon World, An Anthology, Crossley-Holland

An incredibly cheap and accessible way to get your hands on a diverse set of sources, this book includes poems, charters, laws, chronicle evidence etc. This is perhaps the best starting book for dipping your toes into the sources - a little bit of everything. Available on Amazon here.

Bede's Ecclesiastical History

The obvious classic, and a great way to get into reading primary sources about the Anglo-Saxons. A good, affordable translation is available on Amazon here.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles

Certainly a less accessible read than Bede, don't make the mistake of sitting down to read this from cover to cover if you are just starting out. Still, it's a crucial resource for a broad set of events and timelines and is very useful as a reference work. My preferred academic translation is Swanton's, available on Amazon here.


Absolutely worth reading, or re-reading, at any time. If you've seen the terrible, terrible film please PLEASE try reading the original - it's surprisingly accessible, and not as long as you'd expect. My personal preference is Tolkien's translation, the volume of which comes with useful and interesting notes, although Seamus Heaney's poetic translation (referred to lovingly as 'Heaney-wulf) is also excellent. Tolkien can be found here, and Heaney here.

The Life of King Alfred

Asser's biography of the 'Anglo-Saxon's' most famous king, this is the starting place for anyone interested in this period in particular. Available on Amazon here.

Domesday Book

A crucial source to round off the Anglo-Saxon period, there's some debate over the most practical and accessible edition available. Undoubtedly the best, and scholarly standard, is the Phillimore Edition - at 35 volumes long, and about £500, this is impractical to most. The Folio Society did a nice 3 volume copy, but this is also expensive, and currently out of print. Practically, then, the Penguin Edition is the best bet for most.


A free and online translation of most of the Old English poetry corpus has been made available Dr Hostetter at the Old English Poetry Project, available here. If you want a physical copy, The Complete Old English Poems by Williamson is probably your best bet, which is available on Amazon here.


The Electronic Sawyer website provides a free online database of legal charters from across the time period - many of these are translated into modern English. This can be accessed here.


Cambridge's Fitzwilliam Museum runs the Corpus of Early Medieval Coin Finds - a free online database (with pictures!) of a broad range of numismatic finds. This can be accessed here.

'Anglo-Saxon' History (in the more traditional sense)

'The Origins of Anglo-Saxon Kingship', Peter J W Burch

Burch's wonderful PhD thesis challenges the idea that the development of kingship was an inevitability. Most notably, it provides an extensive summary of archaeological and textual references to kingship within the early period, and is therefore an excellent starting point for understanding early 'Anglo-Saxon' power networks. It is available as a PDF here.

Dark Age Economics, Origins of Towns and Trade AD 600–1000, R. Hodges

This is perhaps a controversial choice, give that many of its conclusions are no longer supported. Emporia, or wics, represent a return of urbanization and trade to England after the Romans. Hodges' book is an attempt to explain their origin in terms of a systemic analysis, and a focus on early medieval economics is relatively infrequent. Available on Amazon here.

How and Why Was Domesday Made?, English Historical Review 135(576), S. Baxter

A crucial re-examination on the process by which the Domesday Book came into existence, focusing on the much broader process of surveys and information re-evaluation, of which the Domesday Book was only one aspect. Available as a PDF here.

The Feudal Kingdom of England 1042-1216, Barlow

Although the primary focus of this book is on the Norman kings and England's later history, the first few chapters of Barlow's book give a great summary of the state of England politically and socially before the Conquest. Available on Amazon here.

The Danelaw

What Really Caused the Viking Age, Archaeological Dialogues 22(1), S.P. Ashby

A wonderful introduction to the Viking Age as a whole, and the systems behind it - a landmark publication in the re-examination of the period. Available here, although it sadly requires a university log-in, or a purchase.

The Age of the Vikings, Sawyer

Now somewhat dated in its conclusions, this book marks the beginning of a substantial re-evaluation of the size and scale of the 'Viking' settlement. It's the fundamental touch-stone for the debate of the settlement in the 'Danelaw', and is subsequently a must-read. Available on Amazon here.

Bands of Brothers: a re-appraisal of the Viking Great Army and its implications for the Scandinavian colonization fo England, Early Medieval Europe 24(3), B. Raffield

Available as a PDF here.

River Kings, Cat Jarman

Although tackling the broader 'Viking' world as well, Jarman's approach is a refreshingly accessible look at the archaeological process, and how we actually construct and challenge arguments from it. You can read my review of the book here, or it is available on Amazon here.

Cultures in Contact: Scandinavian Settlement in England in the 9th and 10thCs, Hadley and Richards

A broad range of in-depth cultural studies. Available here on Amazon, but ridiculously, inexplicably, expensive - try and track it down second-hand.


Sutton Hoo - Burial Ground of Kings?, Carver

There has been a great wealth of publications of England's most famous burial, but I think my recommendation for an introduction would be Carver's book - affordable, accessible, and directly answering a number of key questions the site presents us with. It is available on Amazon here. Honourary mention goes to Bruce-Mitford's four-volume The Sutton Hoo Ship Burial as the exhaustive and definitive look at the site in microscopic detail - however, this will set you back several hundred pounds.

Yeavering: An Anglo-British Centre of Early Northumbria, Hope-Taylor

Yeavering is our best-preserved example of a royal hall, and the publication here gives some impressive evidence for scale and grandeur. Hope-Taylor's article is also a great introduction to some important questions in landscape archaeology, like symbolic alignment and the re-use of pre-historic monuments. Available as a PDF here.

The use of grave-goods in conversion-period England c. 600 - c. 850 A.D., Geake

Written by one of the stars of Channel 4s ever-popular Time Team series, this work is a wonderful example of small-finds-centred archaeology. By examining the shift grave-goods provisions during the Mid Saxon period, through the process of conversion from 'Paganism' to Christianity, Geake explores the symbolism of these items, along with larger questions about the scale and chronology of conversion. Available as a PDF here.

The Scale and Impact of Viking Settlement in Northumbria, Medieval Archaeology, Haldenby and Richards

Perhaps my favourite article ever, I have written about the broader implications of this article before here. It illustrates an attempt to identify a consistent archaeological footprint of the 'Vikings', and subsequently an attempt to identify and plot their movements. Available as a PDF here.

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