This course traces the social, political and cultural history of early England and its Celtic neighbours across seven hundred years, from the departure of the Roman legions in the late fourth century through to England’s two conquests in the eleventh century, firstly by Knutr (Canute) of Denmark in 1016, and - more famously - that by the Norman Duke William 'the Bastard' in 1066. The centuries between these two dates witnessed rich cultural and political developments, and the emergence, in the form of Old English, of one of Europe’s most extensive post-Roman vernacular literatures.
Subjects addressed by this class include: the gradual emergence of the early Anglo-Saxon kingdoms from the post-Roman ‘Dark Ages’ of AD 400-600; the rise of several dominant kingdoms in the course of the seventh and eighth centuries, notably Mercia and Wessex; Anglo-Saxon belief; the historical writings of Bede; the reign of Alfred ‘the Great’; the Viking wars; the gradual emergence of a unified English state over the course of the later ninth and tenth centuries and its eventual conquest; varieties of Anglo-Saxon culture; manuscript production; social organization; law and dispute settlement; issues of trade and England's contacts with the wider world.
Students will write two essays of 2000 words. There will be two lectures and a discussion section each week, a mid-term and a final exam. This class cannot be taken for C/NC.
In addition to a course pack of readings set texts will include:
Bede. Ecclesiastical History of the English Church and People, translated by R. Collins and J. McClure (Oxford University Press, 2000).
Asser's Life of Alfred and Other Contemporary Sources, translated by S. D. Keynes & M. Lapidge (Penguin, 1984).
The Anglo-Saxon World. An Anthology, edited and translated by K. Crossley-Holland (Oxford, 1999).