Section the age of tort: anglo-saxon england map, chronology and short documents

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Main Periods:

450?–600 — The invasions to Aethelbert

600–835 — The Heptarchy (overlordships moving from Northumbria to Mercia to Wessex)

(793) 835–865–924 — The Danish invasions

924–1066 — The Kingdom of England

Kings of Wessex and All England:

Alfred — 871–899

Edward the Elder — 899–924 (reconquers Danelaw)

Aethelstan — 924–939 | recovery, loss and

Edmund — 939–946 | recovery of the north

Edgar — 957 (Mercia and North), 959 (All England)–975

Aethelred the Unready — 978 or 979–1016

Cnut — 1016–1035

Edward the Confessor — 1042–1066

Short Documents


from Bede, Ecclesiastical History 1.15,

in English Historical Documents [=EHD],

2d ed., I, D. Whitelock ed. (London, 1979), p. 646
They came from three very powerful nations of the Germans, namely the Saxons, the Angles and the Jutes. From the stock of the Jutes are the people of Kent and the people of Wight, that is, the race which holds the Isle of Wight, and that which in the province of the West Saxons is to this day called the nation of the Jutes, situated opposite that same Isle of Wight. From the Saxons, that is, from the region which now is called that of the Old Saxons, came the East Saxons, the South Saxons, the West Saxons. Further, from the Angles, that is, from the country which is called Angulus 1 and which from that time until today is said to have remained deserted between the provinces of the Jutes and the Saxons, are sprung the East Angles, the Middle Angles, the Mercians, the whole race of the Northumbrians, that is, of those peoples who dwell north of the River Humber, and the other peoples of the Angles. Their first leaders are said to have been two brothers, Hengest and Horsa, of whom Horsa was afterwards killed by the Britons in battle, and has still in the eastern parts of Kent a monument inscribed with his name. They were the sons of Wihtgils, the son of Witta, the son of Wecta, the son of Woden, from whose stock the royal race of many provinces trace their descent.


from Bede, Ecclesiastical History 2.13,

in EHD I, p. 671–2

When the king had heard these words, he replied that he was both willing and bound to receive the faith which he taught. Still, he said that he would confer about it with his loyal chief men and counsellors, so that if they also were of his opinion they might all be consecrated to Christ together in the font of life. And with Paulinus’s assent, he did as he had said. For, holding a council with his wise men, he asked of each in turn what he thought of this doctrine, previously unknown, and of this new worship of God, which was preached.

The chief of his priests, Coifi, at once replied to him: “See, king, what manner of thing this is which is now preached to us; for I most surely admit to you, what I have learnt beyond a doubt, that the religion which we have held up till now has no power at all and no use. For none of your followers has applied himself to the worship of our gods more zealously than I; and nevertheless there are many who receive from you more ample gifts and greater honours than I, and prosper more in all things which they plan to do or get. But if the gods were of any avail, they would rather help me, who have been careful to serve them more devotedly. It remains, therefore, that if on examination you find these new things, which are now preached to us, better and more efficacious, we should hasten to receive them without any delay.”

Another of the king’s chief men, assenting to his persuasive and prudent words, immediately added: “Thus, O king, the present life of men on earth, in comparison with that time which is unknown to us, appears to me to be as if, when you are sitting at supper with your ealdormen and thegns in the winter-time, and a fire is lighted in the midst and the hall warmed, but everywhere outside the storms of wintry rain and snow are raging, a sparrow should come and fly rapidly through the hall, coming in at one door, and immediately out at the other. Whilst it is inside, it is not touched by the storm of winter, but yet, that tiny space of calm gone in a moment, from winter at once returning to winter, it is lost to your sight. Thus this life of men appears for a little while; but of what is to follow, or of what went before, we are entirely ignorant. Hence, if this new teaching brings greater certainty, it seems fit to be followed.” The rest of the nobles and king’s counsellors, by divine inspiration, spoke to the same effect.

The Battle of “Brunanburh

from The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, A Text, ao 937,

in Bright’s Old English Grammar and Reader,

F.G. Cassidy and R.N. Ringler ed., 3d ed. (New York, 1971), p. 163
Hēr Æþelstān cyning, eorla dryhten,

beorna bēahgifa, ond his brōþor ēac,

Ēadmund æþeling, ealdorlangne tīr

geslōgon æt sæcce sweorda ecgum

ymbe Brūnanburh. Bordweal clufan,

hēowan heaþolinde hamora lāfan

afaran Ēadweardes, swā  him geæþele wæs

from cnēomæ¯gum, þæt hī æt campe oft

wiþ lāþra gehwæne land ealgodon

hord ond hāmas.

(In this year King Athelstan, lord of earls / ring-giver of warriors, and his brother also, / Edmund atheling, undying glory / won by sword’s edge in battle / around “Brunanburh.” Shield-wall they cleaved, / hewed war-linden [linden bucklers] with hammers’ leavings [hammered blades], / offspring of Edward, as was inborn to them / from their ancestry, that they at battle oft / with each enemy defend their land, / hoard and homes.)

The Coronation Oath of Edgar (975 or 978)

from Liebermann, Gesetze der Angelsachsen 1:214–15,

in C. Stephenson & S. Marcham, Sources of English Constitutional History [=S&M],

rev. ed. (New York, 1972) 1:18 (No. 10) (the original is in Anglo-Saxon)
This writing has been copied, letter by letter, from the writing which Archbishop Dunstan gave our lord at Kingston on the day that he was consecrated as king, forbidding him to make any promise save this, which at the bishop’s bidding he laid on Christ’s altar:—

In the name of the Holy Trinity, I promise three things to the Christian people of my subjects: first that God’s Church and all Christian people of my realm shall enjoy true peace; second, that I forbid to all ranks of men robbery and wrongful deeds; third that I urge and command justice and mercy in all judgments, so that the gracious and compassionate God who lives and reigns may grant us all His everlasting mercy.

The Achievements of Aethelberht

from Bede, Ecclesiastical History 2.5,

in EHD I, p. 663–4 [some footnotes omitted]

In the year of our Lord’s incarnation 616, which is the 21st year after Augustine with his companions was sent to preach to the nation of the English, Ethelbert, king of the people of Kent, after his temporal kingdom which he had held most gloriously for 56 years, entered into the eternal joys of the heavenly kingdom. He was indeed the third of the kings in the nation of the English to hold dominion over all their southern provinces, which are divided from the northern by the River Humber and the boundaries adjoining it; but the first of them all to ascend to the heavenly kingdom. For the first who had sovereignty2 of this kind was Ælle, king of the South Saxons [477–91]; the second Caelin, king of the West Saxons [560–90], who in their language is called Ceawlin; the third, as we have said, Ethelbert, king of the people of Kent [560–616]; the fourth, Rædwald, king of the East Angles [c.600–616 X 627], who, even while Ethelbert was alive, had been obtaining the leadership for his own race; the fifth, Edwin, king of the nation of the Northumbrians [616–33], that is, of that nation which dwells on the north side of the River Humber, ruled with greater power over all the peoples who inhabit Britain, the English and Britons as well, except only the people of Kent, and he also reduced under English rule the Mevanian islands3 of the Britons, which lie between Ireland and Britain; the sixth, Oswald, also a most Christian king of the Northumbrians [Saint Oswald, 634–42], held a kingdom with these same bounds; the seventh, his brother Oswiu, governing for some time a kingdom of almost the same limits [655–70], also subdued for the most part and made tributary the nations of the Picts and Scots, who hold the northern parts of Britain. But of this hereafter.

King Ethelbert died on 24 February, 21 years after receiving the faith, and was buried in the chapel of St Martin within the church of the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, where also Queen Berhta lies buried. Among the other benefits which in his care for his people he conferred on them, he also established for them with the advice of his councillors judicial decrees after the example of the Romans, which, written in the English language, are preserved to this day and observed by them;4 in which he first laid down how he who should steal any of the property of the Church, of the bishop, or of other orders, ought to make amends for it, desiring to give protection to those whom, along with their teaching, he had received.

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