Old English Pages:
Historical Contexts

Beginnings: textual sources
The Roman historian Tacitus, writing around 98 AD, gives us a picture of Germanic culture around the turn of the millenium -- his Germania may not be entirely reliable, but it is a good place to start. An English translation is available under Tacitus: Germania in Paul Halsall's Internet Medieval Sourcebook.

According to the Venerable Bede, the Germanic invaders and settlers who began to arrive in 5th century Britain included Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Frisians, and Danes. The monk Gildas, writing in the first half of the 6th century, provides a nearly contemporary account of their coming. Excerpts from a translation of Gildas' de Excidio Britanniae are available in the Internet Medieval Sourcebook, under Gildas: The Ruin of Britain.

For a useful summary of key events, see Britannia Internet Magazine's Timeline of British History. For printed resources, see Simon Keynes' Anglo-Saxon History: A Select Bibliography.

To put it all in context, Matthew White has drawn us a map of Anglo-Saxon England.

The archeological record
The claims and dates offered by early writer such as Tacitus, Gildas and Bede must be evaluated in the light of evidence from the archeological record. The Council for British Archaeology has links to a Web version of British Archaeology. Current Archaeology is also on the Web, with a synopsis of the latest discoveries in medieval archeology. Some specific sites:
For more links, try UK Archaeology on the Internet, and ArchNet, under Europe.
Coins provide tangible links to the past. The Early British Coinage page shows some coins from my own collection (photographed and/or scanned), from Celtic Britain to Anglo-Saxon England.
Kings and Saints
A list of rulers and the dates of their reigns is available on the Royal Geneological Data page (select 'Monarchs of England'). See also Gail Dedrick's Guide to the Monarchs of England and Great Britain. Read Britannia Internet Magazine's Anglo-Saxon Kings and Biographies of Kings and Legends.
The Viking invasions had an enormous impact on England and the English language. For information about the Sea-men, visit the excellent World of the Vikings site or the Viking Home Page in Sweden. At the Jorvik Viking Center in York, you can view a facial reconstruction of a 10th century woman.
The Battle of Maldon: maps and photos at The Battle of Maldon 991 AD. See under Texts & Translations for the poem and a translation.
Sights and sites
If only we could visit Anglo-Saxon England! Now you can -- virtually. The Regia Anglorum society has constructed an Anglo-Saxon estate, Wichamstow. The site includes useful information about everyday life in Anglo-Saxon times. Angelcynn, another living history society, has a page on The Clothing and Appearance of the Pagan Anglo-Saxons.

The next-best thing is modern England. If that's not convenient, there are many English Web sites with historical information and photographs. Have a look at a picture of Bath Abbey and the Roman Baths, which are thought to be the inspiration for the Old English Poem known as The Ruin. In Kingston (on the outskirts of London) you can see the Coronation Stone, 'Traditionally the stone on which seven Saxon kings were crowned ..'. The Wantage (Oxfordshire) home page features a statue of King Alfred.

See also historical information and photographs on the pages for:

For other sites that may have relevant information, browse the CityNet pages for the United Kingdom.
Early Medieval Time
Today in Old English: the current date/time, with explanatory notes
The Kirkdale Sundial
The End
Images from the Bayeaux Tapestry show the end of the Anglo-Saxon period. Don't leave without a visit to the Battle of Hastings Homepage!

Return to Old English Pages. Questions, comments, additions? Send to Cathy Ball:
[Last updated June 15, 1997]
Copyright 1996, 1997 Catherine N. Ball