History of Anglo-Saxon England

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Anglo-Saxon England was early medieval England, existing from the 5th to the 11th century from the end of Roman Britain until the Norman conquest in 1066. It consisted of various Anglo-Saxon kingdoms until 927 when it was united as the Kingdom of England by King Æthelstan (r. 927–939). It became part of the North Sea Empire of Cnut the Great, a personal union between England, Denmark and Norway in the 11th century.

The Anglo-Saxons were the members of Germanic-speaking groups who migrated to the southern half of the island of Great Britain from nearby northwestern Europe and their cultural descendants. Anglo-Saxon history thus begins during the period of Sub-Roman Britain following the end of Roman control, and traces the establishment of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in the 5th and 6th centuries (conventionally identified as seven main kingdoms: Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia, Essex, Kent, Sussex, and Wessex), their Christianisation during the 7th century, the threat of Viking invasions and Danish settlers, the gradual unification of England under Wessex hegemony during the 9th and 10th centuries, and ending with the Norman conquest of England by William the Conqueror in 1066.

Anglo-Saxon identity survived beyond the Norman conquest,[1] came to be known as Englishry under Norman rule and through social and cultural integration with Celts, Anglo-Normans and other cultures became the modern English people.

Terminology

Bede completed his book Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (Ecclesiastical History of the English People) in around 731. Thus the term for English people (Latin: gens Anglorum; Anglo-Saxon: Anglecynn) was in use by then to distinguish Germanic groups in Britain from those on the continent (Old Saxony in Northern Germany).[1][a] The term 'Anglo-Saxon' came in practice in the 8th century (probably by Paul the Deacon) to distinguish English Saxons from continental Saxons (Ealdseaxe, 'old' Saxons).

The historian James Campbell suggested that it was not until the late Anglo-Saxon period that England could be described as a nation state.[2] It is certain that the concept of "Englishness" only developed very slowly.[3][4]

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