‘Anglo-Saxon’ England – An Introduction

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’ and finally the introduction of feudalism. It’s a period remembered for its kings: Alfred ‘the Great’, Æthelred ‘the Unready’, Edward ‘the Confessor’. But there’s also a lot more to the period than the ‘great men’ of 20th century history-writing. Powerful women, both royal and ecclesiastical, emerge from the written sources and archaeology. The working masses, slaves, and ecclesiatical figures are all identifiable. The hidden forces of cultural exchange and competition, of ideology and identity, are hard to pin-down, but ever-present.

The study of pre-Conquest England remains lively, and new ideas and approaches are emerging. Advances in archaeological sciences lead to new data, inter-disciplinarity with the social sciences has promoted new approaches to old evidence, and an increased awareness of the use of history within modern political discourse has promoted a re-evaluation of how we use this period in defining our current world.

This web page is an attempt to compile an easy and accessible introduction to a study of the history and archaeology of pre-Conquest England. While keen scholars will find nothing new here, it is hoped that those at a loss of where to start their study of the period, or how to specialise on certain topics, will find it helpful. It does not pretend to be complete – no such resource could ever be, especially one made by me. In fact, a ‘complete’ resource would be unhelpfully overwhelming here – this is a collection of some content, as an introduction. Where possible, free or affordable resources have been stressed, in an attempt to increase access to history for everyone, irespecitve of background.

This is a working document – it will be updated over time when I can spend more time on it, or when new books are published. If you have any suggestions for new additions, please do post them in the comments below.

#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.

Introductory Books

The aim here is to highlight a number of books that act as an entry-point into the world of pre-Conquest England. Most of these provide extensive bibliographies, so if you find a theme of period you particularly like, you can easily follow up on this.

  • Marc Morris, ‘The Anglo-Saxons‘ – A solid and incredibly readable introduction to the entire period, this is a great entry-point. It’s also nicely affordable in paperback.
  • John Blair, ‘Building Anglo-Saxon England‘ – a masterful exploration of the archaeology of pre-Conquest England. However, this will likely be a little hard to access for those just entering archaeology for the first time, with a fair amount of complex jargon.
  • Brink and Price, ‘The Viking World‘ – useful for the overlap with the Danelaw especially, this is a great (but expensive) resource for all of the Viking world.
  • Cat Jarman, ‘River Kings‘ – perhaps the best introduction to how archaeologists work and think in early medieval spaces, with an important section on the Danelaw.
  • The Oxford Handbook of Anglo-Saxon Archaeology – expensive, even in paperback, but this is an exhaustive compilation of the archaeological evidence across pre-Conquest England
  • Martin Carver, ‘Sutton Hoo: Burial Ground of Kings?’ – an engaging and accessible (if a little dated) summary of England’s most famous archaeological site – the ship burial at Sutton Hoo.
  • James Campbell, ‘The Anglo-Saxons‘ – now on the older side, but still a very useful introduction.
  • Higham and Ryan ‘The Anglo-Saxon World
  • Robin Fleming, ‘Britain after Rome. The Fall and Rise, 400 to 1070

Want a more complete collection of literature? Cambridge’s ASNC department has a list here – it’s absolutely huge and lacks some of the most recent publications, but if you’re trying to track down something specific, this is the place to look.

Primary Sources

A study of any historical period must reply, ultimately, on the products of that time period. This list includes both literary written sources, and archaeological evidence where possible. Those on the left are books that need to be bought – the cheapest editions have been cited here. Those on the right are free online databases that can be accessed by anyone.

Past Seaxeducation.com blog posts

Previous blog posts from this website, covering a range of pre-Conquest topics and deep-dives into interesting questions. This list will be updated as more articles are written.

Language Resources – Books

Pre-Conquest history is well-served by a great number of translations to modern English, and you don’t need to learn any contemporary languages to enjoy studying this period. However, you may wish to learn the original languages in which texts were written, for either simple fun of learning a new langauge or for better access to primary materials. The major languages at play in this period are: Old English, (Medieval) Latin and, after the Conquest, Old (Norman) French.



Traditionally these charge a yearly fee to become a member – they’re absolutely not a necessity, but can be fun to access more resources/ meet likeminded scholars etc.


The following is a list of significant modern academics within the field, with links to their Academia.edu pages – these often provide free PDF versions of articles or book chapters for easy free access. This list is far from complete, and misses out very many important academic figures – it will be updated with time.

Just for Fun and Socials

Enjoyed this resource? If you’ve found this, or any of my blog, helpful, please consider donating to my patreon – graduate students need to eat too!

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