The Earliest English Kings

The Earliest English Kings

The Earliest English Kings

The Earliest English Kings

Synopsis

The Earliest English Kings is a fascinating survey of Anglo-Saxon History from the sixth century to the eighth century and the death of King Alfred. It explains and explores the 'Heptarchy' or seven kingdoms, of Anglo-Saxon England, as well as the various peoples within them, wars, religion, King Offa and the coming of the Vikings. With maps and family trees, this book reveals the complex, distant and tumultuous events of Anglo-Saxon politics.

Excerpt

I hope that this book on the history of the Anglo-Saxon heptarchy, now entering upon a second edition, has captured something of the vitality of recent Anglo-Saxon historical scholarship which has been for many years one of the striking features of academic involvement with the Middle Ages in Britain. Intense interest in all aspects of the history of England before the Norman conquest has raised the level of our understanding of the development of English society in the centuries after the collapse of the Roman Empire in the west. At the same time the study of the Celtic regions of the British Isles has refined the details of Anglo-Celtic interaction and led to a new emphasis on the importance of the British Isles as a whole if we are to do justice to any single region. Moreover, insular studies are even less now than they ever were narrowly focussed on domestic matters. Relationships in the early Middle Ages between Frankish Europe and the British Isles have long been seen as exercising a profound influence on insular development both economically and culturally but the focus on the European dimension has become if anything more attuned in recent years to continental ecclesiastical and political nuances and the pervasive nature of Frankish power on the formation and duration of evolving political and military structures among the Anglo-Saxons.

In The Earliest English Kings, first published in 1991, reprinted in 1992 and 1994 and now in a second, revised edition, I have sought to reflect these currents in Anglo-Saxon studies and to develop in the context they provide my own views on the detail of the history of Anglo-Saxon England between the end of Roman Britain in the fifth century ad and the Scandinavian invasions in the ninth. What I have been concerned to describe are the fluctuating fortunes of the ruling dynasties of the kingdoms of the Anglo-Saxon heptarchy (as the seven dominant kingdoms of the men of Kent, the East, South and West Saxons, the East Angles, the Mercians and Northumbrians have become known) and the ways in which, some more successfully than others, they consolidated their kingdoms and sought to dominate, exploit and take tribute from their neighbours. Small principalities were absorbed by the more powerful kingdoms and for a time a particularly strong ruler might achieve an overkingship or overlordship of quite extensive territory before his creation passed into eclipse. What dictated these power-shifts remains a matter of central relevance to our understanding of the nature of political and military power in early England. the

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