Anglo-Saxon Military Institutions on the Eve of the Norman Conquest

Anglo-Saxon Military Institutions on the Eve of the Norman Conquest

Anglo-Saxon Military Institutions on the Eve of the Norman Conquest

Anglo-Saxon Military Institutions on the Eve of the Norman Conquest

Excerpt

It is best to warn the reader immediately that this is a study in institutional history rather than military history. The subject of my investigations has been the organization of the late-Saxon military establishment rather than the art of war. During the warlike age with which this study deals, military organization had economic, social, and political overtones of no small significance. So while the pages that follow may be disappointing to the devotee of military campaigns, battle plans, and vivid combat narratives, they will, it is hoped, prove interesting to students of Old English institutions.

My approach is topical and analytical rather than chronological. Like most institutions, the Anglo-Saxon military system was developing constantly, but rather than to trace its evolution, I have preferred to analyse it as it existed at a particular point in time, or rather at a particular era in English history. I call this era 'late-Saxon England', but I interpret that term rather narrowly to include only the century or so prior to the Norman Conquest. My emphasis, indeed, is upon the reigns of the last two Saxon kings -- Edward the Confessor and Harold Godwinson. The problem of development cannot, of course, be ignored, but it is not stressed.

My reason for this approach is the paucity of sources and the general obscurity of the subject. An anonymous scholarly critic wrote in connexion with one of my articles: 'I do not think that whoever advised the author to turn to the Anglo-Saxon army was being very kind. Never was there a more treacherous bog to stray into than this.' There is much truth in these remarks, although I must myself take full responsibility for my intellectual peregrinations.

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