Kings and Kingdoms of Early Anglo-Saxon England

Kings and Kingdoms of Early Anglo-Saxon England

Kings and Kingdoms of Early Anglo-Saxon England

Kings and Kingdoms of Early Anglo-Saxon England


Kings and Kingdoms of Early Anglo-Saxon England provides a unique survey of the six major Anglo-Saxon kingdoms - Kent, the East Saxons, the East Angles, Northumbria, Mercia and Wessex - and their royal families, examining the most recent research in this field.Barbara Yorke moves beyond narrative accounts of the various royal houses to explain issues such as the strategies of rule, the reasons for success and failure and the dynamics of change in the office of king. Sixteen genealogical and regnal tables help to elucidate the history of the royal houses.


There are many excellent general surveys of Anglo-Saxon history, but their drawback for anyone interested in the history of one particular kingdom is that there is not usually an opportunity to treat the history of any one kingdom as a whole. This study surveys the history of the six best-recorded Anglo-Saxon kingdoms within the period AD 600-900: Kent, the East Saxons, the East Angles, Northumbria, Mercia and Wessex. The chapters, like many of the available written sources, approach the histories of the individual kingdoms through that of their royal families. Dynastic history is a major concern of the book, but the intention is to go beyond narrative accounts of the various royal houses to try to explain issues such as strategies of rulership, the reasons for success or failure and the dynamics of change to the office of king. More generalized conclusions suggest themselves from the studies of individual kingdoms and these are brought together in the final chapter which examines four main facets in the development of kingship in the period under review: kingship and overlordship; royal resources; royal and noble families; and king and church. The first chapter is also a general one and deals with the difficult issue of Anglo-Saxon kingship before 600 and introduces the main classes of written record.

Another aim of the work is to alert the general reader to the exciting research into early Anglo-Saxon England which has been carried out in recent years by historians and archaeologists, but which may only be available in specialist publications. Any writer is, of course, dependent on the primary and secondary works which are available and differences in the material which has survived or the type of research which has been done have helped dictate the shape of the chapters for the individual kingdoms. Readers who wish to follow up individual references will find full details through the notes and the bibliography. Notes have been primarily used for referencing secondary works, but there are some instances in which additional commentary has been provided through them. The reader is alerted to many major problems of interpretation through the text, but shortage of space and the nature of the book have prevented detailed discussion of the more complex issues.

Although I have been able to indicate the written works to which I have been indebted, it is more difficult to demonstrate the immense benefit I have gained from discussions with other Anglo-Saxonists. It would be impossible to name all those from whom at one time or another I have received advice and encouragement, but I hope that if they read this they will know that I am grateful. My thanks go, in particular, to Professor Frank Barlow with whom I began my study of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms for my doctoral thesis and to Dr David Kirby who very kindly read the book in manuscript and generously made many suggestions for its improvement. I am also most grateful to those who provided me with photographs and captions and to a succession of editors at Seaby ’s for their patience and assistance. Finally, on the home front, I must thank my husband Robert for without his continuing support 1 doubt if this book would ever have been completed.


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