The Birth of the Middle Ages, 395-814

By H. St. L. B. Moss | Go to book overview

PART IV THE AGE OF CHARLEMAGNE

XI THE EUROPEAN BACKGROUND

1. THE ANGLO-SAXON INVASIONS

THERE is an almost complete absence of written records for the history of these islands between A.D. 400 and 550. Darkness hangs over them, and the mists of the Arthurian legend. In recent years the regional study of place-names, the excavation of dwellings, cemeteries, boundary and defensive earthworks, air- survey, and the efforts to establish reliable criteria for the dating of pottery, coins, and metal-work have accumulated material for a reconstruction of the course taken by various bands of invaders, the nature of their settlement, and the fate of the Romano-British population. A synthesis of such results may eventually enable some picture to be formed of these dim centuries. In the meantime certain controlling factors may be noticed.

The coast-line of England has altered considerably since early medieval days.1 The east and south coast, from the Firth of Forth to the Isle of Wight, presented at that time alternate stretches of cliffs and tidal marshes. The cliffs were easily defensible; only the gaps formed by river-mouths required to be guarded, and the remains of late Roman signal-stations and coast-fortresses show how this was effected. The marshy inlets, on the other hand, lay open to the boats of the invaders, with their shallow draught. The Humber estuary, stretching far inland, formed a huge waterlogged region, and similar conditions were repeated on a larger scale round the Wash, where the fen country extended as far as Stamford and Cambridge. 'For the plundering raider . . . the stagnant channels would float his vessel into the heart of the land, and on many an island in the swamps he could form camps in which to rest from fighting and collect his booty undisturbed.'2

____________________
1
See the Ordnance Survey Maps of Roman Britain, and Britain in the Dark Ages.
2
J. A. Williamson, The Evolution of England ( Oxford, 1931), pp. 2 ff.

-175-

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The Birth of the Middle Ages, 395-814
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents ix
  • Description of Illustrations xvi
  • Part I- Romans and Barbarians 1
  • I- The Roman World 1
  • II- The Barbarian World 38
  • III- The Clash of Cultures 57
  • Part II- The Triumph of Justinian 79
  • IV- Constantinople *
  • V- Justinian and the West 95
  • VI- Justinian and the East 108
  • VII- The Aftermath 125
  • Part III- The Onslaught of Islam 143
  • VIII- The Faith 143
  • IX- The Conquest 149
  • X- The Culture 159
  • Part IV- The Age of Charlemagne 175
  • XI- The European Background 175
  • XII- The Franks 193
  • XIII- The Papacy 222
  • Appendix A 266
  • Appendix B 270
  • Chronological Table 275
  • Bibliography 283
  • Index 288
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