Anglo-Saxon England

Anglo-Saxon England

Anglo-Saxon England is a podcast looking at the history of Anglo-Saxon England, beginning with the end of Roman Britain and ending with the Norman Conquest. We will not only talk about the history but also the literature, culture, and historiography of the Anglo-Saxon period. This show strives to offer an accessible but scholarly rigorous overview that will appeal both to beginners and to experts.

Episodes

November 23, 2022 22 min

Following Ine’s abdication in 726, the rest of the eighth century was a time of uncertainty for Wessex. It is a period that is not well served by the primary evidence, and we don’t really get detailed accounts of the kingdom’s history again until the rise of Ecgberht in 802. It is a period in which Wessex was often threatened by the ascendant power of Mercia to the north and by internal instability as new dynasties vied for the thr...

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This week, I conclude my look at the form of Christianity that came to be practiced in England across the Anglo-Saxon period. In this episode I look at beliefs about death, the afterlife, and the end of the world.

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In this episode I interview author and historical reenactor John Fletcher about his book 'The Western Kingdom: The Birth of Cornwall'. It's an accessible and fascinating history of Cornwall in the early middle ages and well worth picking up if you are at all interested in the history of south-western Britain or in Cornwall since it really dives into the political, cultural, and military history of the region.

Find John a...

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This week, I begin a two part wrap up of our look at the major themes of Old English literature by looking at the form of Christianity that came to be practiced in England across the Anglo-Saxon period. This and the next episode are actually recordings of two chapters from my PhD thesis which aimed to provide an overview of the theology and practices of the Church in late tenth-century England, so it is specifically focused on that...

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October 26, 2022 27 min

Of all the kings of Wessex prior to the reign of King Alfred, Ine is the one with probably the greatest reputation. This rests mostly on the respect afforded to his law code by King Alfred in the preface to his own collection of legal rulings. There Alfred explicitly set himself in a tradition following from Moses and Ine in making laws for his people. This is high praise and surely must attract the interest of readers. Who was thi...

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October 12, 2022 17 min

Upon the abdication of Centwine in 685 the Gewisse were thrown into chaos. From the forests on their eastern frontier came news of an exiled noble massing an army to press his claim to the throne. He had already cut his teeth on the South Saxons by driving out their king and facing a revolt by his nobles, but now he was looking to return home to seize the opportunity of an empty throne. His name was Cædwalla and though he would rei...

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October 4, 2022 4 min

The Anglo-Saxons prised wisdom. It permeated every aspect of their culture and they created an elaborate literature of wisdom meant to convey both profound truths and practical knowledge. In this bonus episode we take an overview of Old English wisdom literature; its characteristics and subjects, and we also talk a bit about gnomes.

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September 27, 2022 19 min

The period between Cynegil’s baptism in 636 and the rise of Cædwalla in 685 is one in which the political history of the Gewisse becomes extremely complicated. This is because the political structure of the Gewisse that had developed by this time was one in which any male heir of Cerdic was entitled to claim the throne. Thus while the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is committed to presenting a unified dynasty linking King Alfred to Cerdic, ...

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September 21, 2022 2 min

'Heroic’ isn’t a term the Anglo-Saxons used, rather it refers to a general type of poetry dealing with heroes, men who live by a code and put their lives at risk upholding said code while performing marvellous deeds. The heroic ethos in Old English literature is not just one thig, rather it’s a collection of related ideas and tendencies that together form a tapestry we call ‘heroism’. In this episode I want to look at the two m...

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September 13, 2022 25 min

Our first secure historical date for the people who became the West Saxons occurred at some point in the 630s when a missionary called Birinus baptised their king, Cynegils, at his royal palace near Dorchester on Thames. According to traditions which circulated among later generations of West Saxons they already had a century of history prior to this date, but this history as it has come down to us is often vague and contradictory....

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Now available on Patreon (https://www.patreon.com/anglosaxonengland)

Old English poetry can be grim, but why? And is it as grim as it seems? In this second bonus episode I consider why so much Old English poetry is focused on death and loss and look at the deeper cultural tendencies that shaped the Anglo-Saxon's attitudes to life and joy.

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August 30, 2022 29 min

Following the Battle of Ellendun, Mercia entered an uncertain new phase in its history. No longer the supreme power in England, it was forced to regroup and rebuild amid dynastic strife and encroaching threats from without. It would survive for only a further half century after Beornwulf's death, but rather than being solely a time of decline, that last fifty years saw the emergence of something new which was brutally snuffed o...

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August 16, 2022 17 min

The Mercian Supremacy collapsed within just five years of Coenwulf's death, a dramatic reversal of fortune. Why did this happen and what role did the political instability which gripped Mercia at this time play in the course of events? This episode, follow me as we look at how something as successful as Mercia could come crashing down in such a short span of time.


Credits – 

Music: 'Wælheall' by Hrōðmund Wōdening

https://w...

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August 3, 2022 21 min

In this episode we look at the reign of the last king of the Mercian Supremacy: Coenwulf. We look at how he rebuilt a fractured Mercian dominion in the wake of Offa's death, how he struggled to incorporate the Church into his overlordship, and how a 10th C legend about his son's death was used to explain the whole collapse of the Mercian supremacy that had been a fact of Anglo-Saxon politics for almost 200 years at the time...

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July 19, 2022 12 min

Tamworth in Staffordshire proudly announces it's history as 'capital of the kingdom of Mercia' to all who visit. In this episode we look at the history of the town and how it's origins as a major royal site rest decisively with King Offa, who cemented its place in history as the heart of Mercia.

 

Credits – 

Music: 'Wælheall' by Hrōðmund Wōdening

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQfdqIyqJ4g&list=LL&am...

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July 6, 2022 30 min

Offa of Mercia is one of the great figures of Anglo-Saxon history. Casually known in English textbooks, his true greatness is often only alluded to. He was a great visionary king who aspired to remake the political system of Mercia, to centralise it, and even to found an empire in Britain.

Credits – 

Music: 'Wælheall' by Hrōðmund Wōdening

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQfdqIyqJ4g&list=LL&index=5&ab_ch...

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June 22, 2022 22 min

Athelbald of Mercia was yet another Anglo-Saxon king to return from exile and rejuvenate a stagnating kingdom. More than any king we've discussed so far, he fundamentally altered the way politics in his kingdom worked through daring use of royal power to cement the position of the king of Mercia as a legal warrior diplomat at the head of an economic powerhouse. It ended in betrayal from within, but at its peak he ruled glorious...

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June 9, 2022 27 min

After Penda's death in 655, Mercia faced a grim future. Cowed by a dominant Northumbria and ruled by a puppet king there seemed to be little hope for the people of march. But, in the shadows, nobles plotted with Penda's second-born. The puppet was killed and when Oswiu's attention was elsewhere, they raised their banner in rebellion to expel the Northumbrian officials and set Wulfhere on the throne to rule them as a fre...

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May 25, 2022 27 min

Penda's career is one of the most dramatic in Anglo-Saxon history yet very little is known about him apart from what others tell us about him. In this episode I cut through the uncertainty to give you a glimpse of this man, what he accomplished, and how he not only helped forge a singular Mercian identity but also set the stage for future Mercian supremacy.

Credits – 

Music: 'Wælheall' by Hrōðmund Wōdening

https://www.yout...

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May 11, 2022 22 min

Mercia, the kingdom which grew out of the English Midlands, dominated England south of the Humber from the 620s until its final fall in the late 800s. It was a military and cultural powerhouse for much of that time, yet its origins are mysterious, even more mysterious than those of the other Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. In this episode, we begin our look at the history of Mercia by considering its origins in the distant past of legend and...

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