anglo saxonism definition us history

anglo saxonism definition us history

Historians use the term "Anglo-Saxonism" to describe a loose assembly of cultural assumptions that influenced Anglo-American political and intellectual life in varying ways from the seventeenth century into the twentieth century. In its most general form, Anglo-Saxonism extolled the traditions of the English people before the Norman conquest, who were themselves usually understood to be the descendants of old Germanic tribes of northern Europe: a people superior to others by virtue of their cultural possession of ethical values, legal principles, and governmental structures founded on a bedrock of liberty and democracy. Early American Anglo-Saxonists (like Thomas Jefferson, an enthusiastic student of old English language and law) invoked the attractive figure of the sturdy preconquest English yeoman, and Anglo-Saxonism thus connected itself readily to seminally American, antiaristocratic ideals of political and juridical localism and of the rights of small landholders. An Anglo-Saxon heritage, then, was from very early on one important component of America's conceptualizing of a national character, often invoked as a kind of ruggedly homespun counterpoint to the high classical culture derived from Greece and Rome.

THE RISE OF ANGLO-SAXONISM IN THE LATE NINETEENTH CENTURY

In the late nineteenth century Anglo-Saxonism attained a particularly prominent place in public or popular discourses of nation, for several reasons. First and perhaps most important, the century's proliferating racial theories in both Europe and the United States—generally taxonomic attempts at scientifically naturalizing the political histories of empire and slavery—shifted Anglo-Saxonism's terms, emphasizing the old English virtues as racial rather than localized in a cultural history. Seen through the lenses of Darwinian evolutionary thought and, in the early twentieth century, Mendelian genetics, these virtues seemed indisputably heritable as well; thus the moral characteristics of a people could perpetuate themselves in a bloodline—or dissipate through racial admixture.

Moreover, the tempting language of hierarchy and teleology entwined with Charles Darwin's evolutionary thought—a language of higher and lower, of success and failure—permitted the development, on both sides of the Atlantic, of a pervasive, powerful rhetoric of racial fitness and ultimate domination. This rhetoric in turn lent easy support to doctrines of imperial necessity in England, of Manifest Destiny in the United States. The Anglo-Saxons, in the popular terms of racial determinism, were naturally vigorous adventurers and leaders whose expansion over the face of the earth was a simple matter of biological inevitability. Such historical thinking, buttressed by an increasing fashionableness of "Teutonic" approaches to history in American universities, led by the 1880s to the vigorous apocalyptic language of the clergyman Josiah Strong, who wrote in his immensely popular Our Country (1885) of white Christendom's coming crisis: "the final competition of races, for which the Anglo-Saxon is being schooled. . . . And can any one doubt that the result of this competition will be 'survival of the fittest?'" (p. 214). Citing Darwin's Descent of Man, Strong noted that the uncivilized non-Aryans of the world "are now disappearing before the allconquering Anglo-Saxons. . . . Whether the extinction of inferior races before the advancing Anglo-Saxon seems to the reader sad or otherwise, it certainly appears probable" (p. 215).

A few years later the young Theodore Roosevelt could write with similar extravagance (although without Strong's genocidal complacency) in the opening pages of The Winning of the West that "the day when the keels of the low Dutch sea-thieves first grated on the British coast was big with the doom of many nations. . . . The sons of the unknown Saxon, Anglian, and Friesic warriors now hold in their hands the fate of the coming years" (pp. 20–21). In his later political career, Roosevelt would come to see the hybrid American experience as an advance on the simple racial determinism implicit here, with "American-ness" itself—a political identification and allegiance rather than an immutable biological category—more telling than simpler racialized versions of Anglo-Saxonism. But in the 1880s, for Strong, Roosevelt, and others, the century's end seemed the fulfillment of humankind's greatest ethnic adventure, the flowering of racial strength and destiny that the American Sinophile and military writer Homer Lea would call, a generation later, simply "The Day of the Saxon."

Thinking of this kind, combining elements of white supremacy, optimistic progressivism, and a sense of impending crisis, had immediate psychic value for the historical circumstances of the United States in the years before and after the turn of the twentieth century. The new immigration of the 1890s created great (and unruly) "foreign" underclasses in the nation's major cities; the continental frontier "closed," in the historian Frederick Jackson Turner's famous formulation; the "Negro problem," unresolved by emancipation, haunted the exhausted agrarian South and the North's industrial centers. For all of these, the legend of a dominating, pioneering Anglo-Saxon race at the very core of the American experience provided a framing perspective that was also, for some anxious white Americans, a consolation. But the high-water mark of American Anglo-Saxonism coincided most clearly with the nation's own direct experiment in imperial expansion: the Spanish-American War of 1898, which also sealed the growing political rapprochement of Britain and the United States. In early 1899, in that war's aftermath, Rudyard Kipling issued his famous transatlantic poetic challenge (in the New York Sun, the New York Tribune, and McClure's Magazine) to a nation feeling its new international strength and the duties of its Anglo-Saxon heritage: "Take up the White Man's burden." The plea was at once both immediately political and deeply racial.

ANGLO-SAXONISM AND THE READING PUBLIC

For the American reading public, Anglo-Saxonism manifested itself in a number of ways, including a resurgent interest in Sir Walter Scott's chivalric romances and other medieval revivals, like Howard Pyle's illustrated children's fantasies. Kipling himself, England's self-aware literary spokesperson for Anglo-Saxonism and empire, married an American, lived in Vermont, and enjoyed remarkable American adulation in the 1890s and on into the new century. His famous poem "The White Man's Burden" provided the subtitle for the first of Thomas Dixon Jr.'s popular works, The Leopard's Spots: A Romance of the White Man's Burden 1865–1900 (1902), an openly racist romance of the post–Civil War South (remembered mainly as one of the sources for D. W. Griffith's epic 1915 film Birth of a Nation). Like Kipling and others, Dixon understood the late nineteenth century as a climactically decisive chapter in white racial history: "The future American must be an Anglo-Saxon or a Mulatto," says his senior protagonist, and "the future of the world depends on the future of this Republic" (p. 200). His novel's happy ending, a triumphal reassertion of racial separatism, is made possible by the Spanish-American War and a corresponding international rediscovery of Anglo-American race pride: "[The war's] sudden union of the English-speaking people in friendly alliance disturbed the equilibrium of the world, and confirmed the Anglo-Saxon in his title to the primacy of racial sway" (p. 412).

Rudyard Kipling's "The White Man's Burden," shown here in its first American periodical appearance in February 1899, clearly aligned Anglo-Saxonist sentiments with modern imperialism.

Other authors before and after the turn of the century deployed Anglo-Saxonism in various ways, although seldom with Dixon's single-minded enthusiasm. Frank Norris, for example, invoked racial destiny with a characteristically confusing mixture of irony and fervor at the end of The Octopus (1901), as the great wheat ship sails from California for India. "We'll carry our wheat into Asia yet," says the capitalist Cedarquist, "The Anglo-Saxon started from there at the beginning of everything and it's manifest destiny that he must circle the globe and fetch up where he began his march. . . . The irrepressible Yank is knocking at the doors" (p. 648). Some writers more or less openly satirized Anglo-Saxonism's simple nostalgia, like Mark Twain in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889). Finley Peter Dunne, the Chicago humorist and celebrant of a distinctly non-Anglo-Saxon immigrant world, mocked the naïveté of rallying the polycultural, polyethnic United States around a myth of racial homogeneity. "I tell ye," his persona Mr. Dooley observed dryly in 1898:

whin th' Clan an' th' Sons iv Sweden an' th' Banana Club an' th' Circle Francaize an' th' Rooshian Sons of Dinnymite an' th' Benny Brith an' th' Coffee Clutch that Schwartzmeister r-runs an' th' Turrnd'ye-mind an' th' Holland society an' th' Afro-Americans an' th' other Anglo-Saxons begin f'r to raise their Anglo-Saxon battle-cry, it'll be all day with th' eight or nine people in th' wurruld that has th' misfortune iv not bein' brought up Anglo-Saxons. (P. 56)

JACK LONDON AND PROGRESSIVE RACISM

The American who came closest to rivaling Kipling as his nation's literary spokesperson for Anglo-Saxonism was his admirer Jack London, who famously peopled his work with masterful Nordic blonds enacting their violent destinies at the edges of the civilized world. London wrote vividly and explicitly about the non-Western challenges facing "our own great race adventure" in essays like his well-known 1904 piece on the Russo-Japanese War, "The Yellow Peril," and in stories like "The Unparalleled Invasion" (1907) and "The Inevitable White Man" (1908), whose aptly named protagonist Saxtorph murderously explores the proposition that "the white man's mission is to farm the world. . . . the white has to run the niggers whether he understands them or not. It's inevitable. It's fate" (p. 1558). In 1910 he vigorously led the openly racist call for Jim Jeffries, the "great white hope" of professional boxing, to take down Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion.

London's case is instructive in its complexity, suggesting Anglo-Saxonism's protean functioning in the intellectual currents of his time. He saw himself as (and in most senses was) a politically progressive or radical thinker and an activist for human justice. Largely self-educated, he drew his politics from voracious reading in social theory and philosophy, from Darwin and Karl Marx to Friedrich Nietzsche but with special attention to Herbert Spencer, the father of Social Darwinism, who had wholeheartedly adapted evolutionism to social and historical analysis. London enthusiastically endorsed the utopian possibilities of modern "scientific" thought (as fantasies like "Goliah" and "The Unparalleled Invasion" attest) and aligned himself sympathetically with the culture of manly vigor espoused by imperialists like Roosevelt and Kipling, with the international eugenics movement, and with world socialism. By his mid-twenties he had also shipped as a sailor to Asia, hoboed across the United States, run as a Socialist-Labor candidate in the Oakland, California, municipal elections, joined the great Klondike gold rush, and explored urban industrial poverty in the slums of London. Thus London's version of Anglo-Saxonism, again something like Roosevelt's or Kipling's, is probably best understood as one expression of naively progressive, internationalist thinking—based in old ideas of Manifest Destiny, modernized by a simple "scientific" determinism, drawing its vocabulary from the racial discourse of the preceding fifty years, and made theatrical by an appeal to popular Orientalism. For London (as for Kipling and other great British imperialists) the brotherhood of man and the white man's burden, progressivism and racism, could and did coexist in a single political philosophy.

THE WANING OF ANGLO-SAXONISM IN THE MODERNIST WORLD

But even at the peak of Anglo-Saxonist optimism, such a philosophy seemed to many Americans willfully blind to its own brutal underpinnings. Along with its accolades, for example, "The White Man's Burden" elicited an immediate scattering of counterresponses in the United States, like William Walker's sardonic March 1899 Life cartoon, where brown and black bearers struggle beneath the imperial bulk of Uncle Sam and John Bull. And through the 1910s and 1920s, as the American racial, economic, and international experiences grew more complicated, the triumphant myth of the Anglo-Saxon available to Josiah Strong and Teddy Roosevelt in the 1880s seemed to most serious writers not only doomed to disappointment but in fact also comically inadequate to the modern world and its cultural ironies. By 1925 a social theorist like Lothrop Stoddard, whose The Rising Tide of Color (1920) gloomily announced the international triumph of black, yellow, red, and brown, could be satirically dismissed as a crank by F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby (1&25); in 1929 William Faulkner (in The Sound and the Fury) similarly mocked Jason Compson's hayseed, all-American anti-Semitism. These high modernist white writers (and others like Ernest Hemingway, T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, and Willa Cather) were themselves hardly freer of their culture's deeply entrenched racial attitudes than had been their predecessors. It can be powerfully argued, in fact, that high modernism's nostalgic neoclassicism, its formalism, and its frequent appeals to myth carried forward in a subtler form the raw expression of white power that energized the Anglo-Saxonism of the previous generation. But the innocent exuberance of Roosevelt, London, and the early Kipling, their simple confidence in Anglo-Saxon culture, virtue, and progress, disappeared almost without a trace into the complications of post–World War I America.

Dixon, Thomas, Jr. The Leopard's Spots: A Romance of the White Man's Burden 1865–1900. New York: Grosset and Dunlap, 1902.

Dunne, Finley Peter. "On the Anglo-Saxon." In his Mr. Dooley in Peace and in War. Boston: Small, Maynard, 1899.

Kipling, Rudyard. "The White Man's Burden." McClure's Magazine, February 1899.

London, Jack. The Complete Short Stories of Jack London. Edited by Earle Labor, Robert C. Leitz III, and I. Milo Shepard. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1993.

London, Jack. "The Yellow Peril." In his Revolution and Other Essays. New York: Macmillan, 1910.

Norris, Frank. The Octopus. New York: Doubleday, Page, 1901.

Roosevelt, Theodore. The Winning of the West. Vol. 1. New York: Putnam, 1889.

Strong, Josiah. Our Country. 1885. Edited by Jurgen Herbst. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1963.

Anderson, Stuart. Race and Rapprochement: Anglo-Saxonism and Anglo-American Relations, 1895–1904. East Brunswick, N.J.: Associated University Presses, 1981.

Horsman, Reginald. Race and Manifest Destiny: The Origins of American Racial Anglo-Saxonism. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1981.

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For many centuries there was no agreed collective name for the Germanic peoples who settled in Britain. By the time of the Norman Conquest (1066), English had emerged for the peoples and their language, but when the Normans began to call themselves English the older sense of the word was obscured and the identification of English with post-Conquest England was strengthened. The mass of the people were classed by their overlords as SAXON. Medieval Latin chroniclers used Anglo-Saxones and Angli Saxones to refer to both Angles and Saxons, a practice that became universal after 1600 for anything before the Conquest. In 1884, James Murray noted in the OED entry Anglo-Saxon that this practice had led ‘to an erroneous analysis of the word, which has been taken as = Angle + Saxon, a union of Angle and Saxon; and in accordance with this mistaken view, modern combinations have been profusely formed in which Anglo- is meant to express “English and …”, “English in connexion with …”, as “the Anglo-Russian war”; whence, on the same analogy, Franco-German, Turko-Russian, etc.’

An extension of the term to mean the people of England and (loosely) Britain developed in the 19c, for example when the journalist Walter Bagehot referred in a speech to wealth as ‘the obvious and national idol of the Anglo-Saxon’. In 1956, the novelist Angus Wilson revived a phrase of Lewis Carroll's as the title of his satirical novel Anglo-Saxon Attitudes . The term Anglo-Saxon now refers to anyone in any way linked with England, the English language, and their traditions: in France, anglo-saxon has been used, often negatively, for shared ‘Anglo-American’ attitudes and culture, while in 1975 the Tanzanian writer Ali Mazrui coined Afro-Saxon to describe Black Africans who adopt English as the language of the home and with it cultural attitudes and values which in effect make them Black Englishmen.

In Victorian times, the term was associated with the Germanic element in English vocabulary, especially by such purists as William Barnes. Its use as a label for direct and often coarse language marks a perception of OLD ENGLISH 1 as a medium that called a spade a spade. This view contrasts a simple, vigorous vernacular with an effete Latinate style little understood and seldom used by the people at large. For those who hold this view, smell and sweat are plainer, briefer, and better than odour and perspiration. More pointedly still, the term is used for vulgar expressions. Webster's Third New International Dictionary (1966) gives Anglo-Saxon word as a synonym of four-letter word, and Charles Berlitz has observed: ‘In general, almost all the polysyllabic words in English are of French-Latin origin while the one-syllable words come from Anglo-Saxon’ ( Native Tongues , 1982). There are, however, many Anglo-Saxon polysyllables, such as bloodthirstily and righthandedness. See PLAIN, RUNE.

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1. of or relating to the Anglo-Saxons or their language "Anglo-Saxon poetry" "The Anglo-Saxon population of Scotland"

1. English prior to about 1100

2. a native or inhabitant of England prior to the Norman Conquest

3. a person of Anglo-Saxon (especially British) descent whose native tongue is English and whose culture is strongly influenced by English culture as in WASP for `White Anglo-Saxon Protestant' "in the ninth century the Vikings began raiding the Anglo-S. "

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relatif à (fr) [Classe. ]

qui est relatif à une région ou un pays (fr) [Classe. ]

les langues (fr) [Thème]

linguistics [Domaine]

NaturalLanguage [Domaine]

English, English language - English person [Hyper.]

England [Thème]

Anglo-Saxon [Dérivé]

relatif à une langue (fr) [Classe]

qui est relatif à une région ou un pays (fr) [Classe. ]

Angleterre (fr) [termes liés]

Anglo-Saxon, Old English - Angelsaks, Angelsaksen (nl) [Dérivé]

Anglo-Saxon (adj.) ↕

langue italo-celtique (fr) [Classe]

England [Thème]

German; Germanic; Germanic language [Classe]

Angleterre (fr) [termes liés]

Anglo-Saxon (n.) ↕

German; Germanic; Germanic language [Classe]

relatif à une langue (fr) [Classe]

qui est relatif à une région ou un pays (fr) [Classe. ]

Angleterre (fr) [termes liés]

linguistics [Domaine]

NaturalLanguage [Domaine]

West Germanic, West Germanic language - language, oral communication, speech, speech communication, spoken communication, spoken language, voice communication [Hyper.]

English - English - Anglo-Saxon, Old English - Anglo-Saxon [Dérivé]

linguistics [Domaine]

NaturalLanguage [Domaine]

English, English language [Hyper.]

Anglo-Saxon [Dérivé]

Anglo-Saxon (n.) ↕

relatif à une langue (fr) [Classe]

qui est relatif à une région ou un pays (fr) [Classe. ]

Angleterre (fr) [termes liés]

England [membre]

Brit, Britisher, Briton [Hyper.]

Anglo-Saxon, Old English - Anglo-Saxon [Dérivé]

English person [Hyper.]

Anglo-Saxon [Dérivé]

Anglo-Saxon (n.) ↕

peuple et tribu (fr) [Classe. ]

state [Classe. ]

État membre de la Communauté Européenne (fr) [Classe. ]

archipelago [Classe. ]

administration [Domaine]

GeopoliticalArea [Domaine]

LandArea [Domaine]

Brit, Britisher, Briton - kingdom, realm [Hyper.]

Common Market, Community, EC, EEC, EU, Europe, European Community, European Economic Community, European Union - NATO, North Atlantic Treaty Organization [membre]

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U.K., UK, United Kingdom, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland [Situé]

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Anglo-Saxon (n.) ↕

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Anglo-Saxons is the term usually used to describe the invading Germanic tribes in the south and east of Great Britain from the early 5th century AD, and their creation of the English nation, to the Norman conquest of 1066. [ 1 ] The Benedictine monk, Bede, identified them as the descendants of three Germanic tribes: [ 2 ]

  • The Angles, who may have come from Angeln, and Bede wrote that their whole nation came to Britain, [ 3 ] leaving their former land empty. The name 'England' (Anglo-Saxon 'Engla land' or 'Ængla land' originates from this tribe. [ 4 ]
  • The Saxons, from Lower Saxony (German: Niedersachsen, Germany)
  • The Jutes, from the Jutland peninsula.

Their language (Old English) derives from "Ingvaeonic" West Germanic dialects and transforms into Middle English from the 11th century. Old English was divided into four main dialects: West Saxon, Mercian, Northumbrian and Kentish.

Place names seem to show that smaller numbers of some other Germanic tribes came over: Frisians at Fresham, Freston, and Friston; Flemings at Flempton and Flimby; Swabians at Swaffham; perhaps Franks at Frankton and Frankley.

The term "Anglo-Saxon" is from writings going back to the time of King Alfred the Great, who seems to have frequently used the title rex Anglorum Saxonum or rex Angul-Saxonum (king of the English Saxons). [ 5 ]

The Old English terms ænglisc and Angelcynn ("Angle-kin", gens Anglorum) when they are first attested had already lost their original sense of referring to the Angles to the exclusion of the Saxons, and in their earliest recorded sense refers to the nation of Germanic peoples who settled England and southern Scotland in and after the 5th century. [ 6 ]

The indigenous British people, who wrote in both Latin and Welsh, referred to these invaders as Saxones or Saeson - the latter is still used today in the Welsh word for 'English' people. [ 7 ] And in the Scottish word for 'English' people, saesonach.

The term Angli Saxones seems to have first been used in continental writing nearly a century before Alfred's time by Paul the Deacon, historian of the Lombards, probably to distinguish the English Saxons from the continental Saxons. [citation needed]

There is a theory that the name of the Angles came from the Germanic and Indo-European root ang- = "narrow", i.e. "the people who live by the Narrow Water (i.e. the Schlei inlet)". [citation needed]

The history of Anglo-Saxon England broadly covers early medieval England from the end of Roman rule and the establishment of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in the 5th century until the Conquest by the Normans in 1066.

Migration of Germanic peoples to Britain from what is now northern Germany and southern Scandinavia is attested from the 5th century (e.g. Undley bracteate). [ 8 ] Based on Bede's Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum, the intruding population is traditionally divided into Angles, Saxons, and Jutes, but their composition was likely less clear-cut and may also have included Frisians and Franks. The Parker Library holds the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle which contains text that may be the first recorded indications of the movement of these Germanic Tribes to Britain.

Christianization of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms began in 597 and was at least nominally completed in 686. Throughout the 7th and 8th centuries, power fluctuated between the larger kingdoms. Bede records Aethelbert of Kent as being dominant at the close of the 6th century, but power seems to have shifted northwards to the kingdoms of Mercia and Northumbria.

Aethelbert and some of the later kings of the other kingdoms were recognised by their fellow kings as Bretwalda (ruler of Britain). The so-called 'Mercian Supremacy' dominated the 8th century, though again it was not constant. Aethelbald and Offa, the two most powerful kings, achieved high status. This period has been described as the Heptarchy, though this term has now fallen out of academic use.

The word arose on the basis that the seven kingdoms of Northumbria, Mercia, Kent, East Anglia, Essex, Sussex and Wessex were the main polities of south Britain. More recent scholarship has shown that theories of the 'heptarchy' are not grounded in evidence, and it is far more likely that power fluctuated between many more 'kingdoms'. Other politically important 'kingdoms' across this period include: Hwicce, Magonsaete, Kingdom of Lindsey and Middle Anglia.

In the 9th century, the Viking challenge grew to serious proportions. Alfred the Great's victory at Edington, Wiltshire, in 878 brought intermittent peace, but with their possession of Jorvik the Danes gained a solid foothold in England.

An important development in the 9th century was the rise of the Kingdom of Wessex; by the end of his reign Alfred was recognised as overlord by several southern kingdoms. Æthelstan was the first king to achieve direct rule over what is considered "England".

Near the end of the 10th century, there was renewed Scandinavian interest in England, with the conquests of Sweyn of Denmark and his son Canute. By 1066 there were three lords with claims to the English throne, resulting in two invasions and the battles of Stamford Bridge and Hastings, the results of which established Anglo-Norman rule in England.

Early Anglo-Saxon buildings in Britain were generally simple, constructed mainly using timber with thatch for roofing. Generally preferring not to settle in the old Roman cities, the Anglo-Saxons built small towns near their centres of agriculture. In each town, a main hall was in the centre.

There are few remains of Anglo-Saxon architecture, with no secular work remaining above ground. At least fifty churches are of Anglo-Saxon origin, with many more claimed to be, although in some cases the Anglo-Saxon part is small and much-altered. All surviving churches, except one timber church, are built of stone or brick and in some cases show evidence of re-used Roman work.

The architectural character of Anglo-Saxon ecclesiastical buildings ranges from Celtic influenced architecture in the early period; basilica influenced Romanesque architecture; to in the later Anglo-Saxon period, an architecture characterised by pilaster-strips, blank arcading, baluster shafts and triangular headed openings.

Anglo-Saxon art before roughly the time of Alfred (ruled 871–899) is mostly in varieties of the Hiberno-Saxon or Insular style, a fusion of Anglo-Saxon and Celtic techniques and motifs. The Sutton Hoo treasure is an exceptional survival of very early Anglo-Saxon metalwork and jewellery, from a royal grave of the early 7th century. The period between Alfred and the Norman Conquest, with the revival of the English economy and culture after the end of the Viking raids, saw a distinct Anglo-Saxon style in art, though one in touch with trends on the Continent.

Anglo-Saxon art is mainly known today through illuminated manuscripts, including the Benedictional of St. Æthelwold (British Library) and Leofric Missal (Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Bodl, 579), masterpieces of the late "Winchester style", which drew on Hiberno-Saxon art, Carolingian art and Byzantine art for style and iconography, and combined both northern ornamental traditions with Mediterranean figural traditions. The Harley Psalter was a copy of the Carolingian Utrecht Psalter — which was a particular influence in creating an Anglo-Saxon style of very lively pen drawings.

Manuscripts were far from the only Anglo-Saxon art form, but they have survived in much greater numbers than other types of object. Contemporaries in Europe regarded Anglo-Saxon goldsmithing and embroidery (Opus Anglicanum) as especially fine. Perhaps the best known piece of Anglo-Saxon art is the Bayeux Tapestry which was commissioned by a Norman patron from English artists working in the traditional Anglo-Saxon style. The most common example of Anglo-Saxon art is coins, with thousands of examples extant. Anglo-Saxon artists also worked in fresco, ivory, stone carving, metalwork (see Fuller brooch for example) and enamel, but few of these pieces have survived.

Old English, sometimes called Anglo-Saxon, was the language spoken under Alfred the Great and continued to be the common language of England (non-Danelaw) until after the Norman Conquest of 1066 when, under the influence of the Anglo-Norman language spoken by the Norman ruling class, it changed into Middle English roughly between 1150–1500.

Old English is far closer to early Germanic than Middle English. It is less Latinised and retains many morphological features (nominal and verbal inflection) that were lost during the 12th to 14th centuries. The languages today which are closest to Old English are the Frisian languages, which are spoken by a few hundred thousand people in the northern part of Germany and the Netherlands.

Before literacy in the vernacular Old English or Latin became widespread, the Runic alphabet, called the futhorc (also known as futhark) was used for inscriptions. When literacy became more prevalent, a form of Latin script was used with a few letters derived from the futhork: 'Eth,' 'Wynn,' and 'Thorn.'

The letters regularly used in printed and edited texts of Old English are the following:

  • a æ b c d ð e f g h i l m n o p r s t þ u w x y

Very few law codes exist from the Anglo-Saxon period to provide an insight into legal culture beyond the influence of Roman law and how this legal culture developed over the course of time. The Saxons chopped off hands and noses for punishment (if the offender stole something or committed another crime). If someone killed a Saxon, he had to pay money called wergild, the amount varying according to the social rank of the victim.

Old English literary works include genres such as epic poetry, hagiography, sermons, Bible translations, legal works, chronicles, riddles, and others. In all there are about 400 surviving manuscripts from the period, a significant corpus of both popular interest and specialist research.

The most famous works from this period include the poem Beowulf, which has achieved national epic status in Britain. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is a collection of important early English history. Cædmon's Hymn from the 7th century is the earliest attested literary text in English.

The indigenous pre-Christian belief system of the Anglo-Saxons was a form of Germanic paganism and therefore closely related to the Old Norse religion, as well as other Germanic pre-Christian cultures.

Christianity gradually replaced the indigenous religion of the English around the 7th and 8th centuries. Celtic Christianity was introduced into Northumbria and Mercia by monks from Ireland, but the Synod of Whitby settled the choice for Roman Christianity. As the new clerics became the chroniclers, the old religion was partially lost before it was recorded, and today historians' knowledge of it is largely based on surviving customs and lore, texts, etymological links and archaeological finds.

One of the few recorded references is that a Kentish King would only meet the missionary St. Augustine in the open air, where he would be under the protection of the sky god, Woden. Written Christian prohibitions on acts of paganism are one of historians' main sources of information on pre-Christian beliefs.

Despite these prohibitions, numerous elements of the pre-Christian culture of the Anglo-Saxon people survived the Christianisation process. Examples include the English language names for days of the week:

  • Tiw, the Anglo-Saxon equivalent of Tyr: Tuesday
  • Woden, the Anglo-Saxon equivalent of Odin: Wednesday
  • Þunor, the Anglo-Saxon equivalent of Thor: Thursday
  • *Fríge, the Anglo-Saxon equivalent of Frigg: Friday

"Anglo-Saxon" in linguistics is still used as a term for the original West Germanic component of the modern English language, which was later expanded and developed through the influence of Old Norse and Norman French, though linguists now more often refer to it as Old English. In the 19th century the term "Anglo-Saxon" was broadly used in philology, and is sometimes so used at present. In Victorian Britain, some writers such as Robert Knox, James Anthony Froude, Charles Kingsley [ 9 ] and Edward A. Freeman [ 10 ] used the term "Anglo-Saxon" to justify racism and imperialism, claiming that the "Anglo-Saxon" ancestry of the English made them racially superiorto the colonised peoples. Similar racist ideas were advocated in the 19th Century United States by Samuel George Morton andGeorge Fitzhugh. [ 11 ]

"Anglo-Saxon" is also used to refer to any of the modern peoples of the British Isles, plus all of their descendants throughout the world. The definition has varied from time to time and varies from place to place. In contemporary Anglophone cultures outside the United Kingdom, the term is most commonly found in certain contexts, such as the term "White Anglo-Saxon Protestant" or "WASP". Such terms are often politicised, and bear little connection to the precise ethnological or historical definition of the term "Anglo-Saxon". It often encapsulates socio-economic identifiers more than ethnic ones.

Outside Anglophone countries, both in Europe and in the rest of the world, the term "Anglo-Saxon" and its direct translations are used to refer to the Anglophone peoples and societies of Britain, the United States, and other countries such as Australia, Canada and New Zealand. The term can be used in a variety of contexts, often to identify the English-speaking world's distinctive language, culture, technology, wealth, markets, economy, and legal systems. Local variations include the French "Anglo-Saxon" and the Spanish "anglosajón".

As with the English language use of the term, what constitutes the "Anglo-Saxon" varies from speaker to speaker.

Definition of Anglo-Saxonism in US English:

1 A word, phrase, or idiom of Old English origin; (hence) an Anglicism.

2 Originally US. A word that is regarded as vulgar, considered (especially humorously) to be of traditional Anglo-Saxon origin, with allusion to the idea of an earlier, uncomplicated era of language and culture; a swear word.

3 Identification with, or belief in the superiority of, England (or Britain), the English-speaking peoples, their civilization, culture, etc.

Early 19th century; earliest use found in The Quarterly Review. From Anglo-Saxon + -ism.

Definition of Anglo-Saxon in US English:

1 Relating to or denoting the Germanic inhabitants of England from their arrival in the 5th century up to the Norman Conquest.

  • ‘In Anglo-Saxon times Wessex was a large kingdom of the West Saxons covering the present counties of Dorset, Wiltshire, Hampshire, and Berkshire.’
  • ‘C. sativa was cultivated in England during the Anglo-Saxon age to make both rope and medicine.’
  • ‘Yeavering is perhaps not the best-known Anglo-Saxon site in England - that title surely goes to Sutton Hoo.’
  • ‘In 10th Century Anglo-Saxon England, this dynamic had been complicated by a highly chequered history.’
  • ‘By 1275 there were ten surviving Anglo-Saxon nunneries in England and Wales, together with 118 founded after the conquest.’
  • ‘Unlike The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Anglo-Saxon England, this volume covers the entire medieval period and is edited by American scholars.’
  • ‘To judge from the surviving manuscripts, these texts found a large audience in Anglo-Saxon England during the tenth and eleventh centuries.’
  • ‘The last Anglo-Saxon king of England lay dead on a battlefield near Hastings, an arrow through his eye.’
  • ‘It was quite common in Anglo-Saxon England for one church to act as a minster for a town community, handling all funerals and gathering all the dead into its graveyard.’
  • ‘When the rival Norman and Anglo-Saxon boroughs amalgamated into a single administration, we cannot say.’
  • ‘He was in northern Italy when he met the Anglo-Saxon scholar, Alcuin.’
  • ‘The Anglo-Saxon settlement of England was no overnight affair.’
  • ‘Neither in the twelfth century nor in Anglo-Saxon times did society consist only of barons and peasants.’
  • ‘The Anglo-Saxon community in England was basically a rural one, where primarily all classes of society lived on the land.’
  • ‘Central authority in England was established by Anglo-Saxon monarchs in the tenth century and consolidated by the Normans after 1066.’
  • ‘In theory all freemen of Anglo-Saxon England were under an obligation to serve in the fyrd when called upon.’
  • ‘The Welsh continued to fight Norman and Anglo-Saxon control in the first part of the twelfth century.’
  • ‘In England, it developed during the Middle Ages from the Anglo-Saxon fyrd.’
  • ‘Since it was largely responsible for the same forms of revenue and expenditure that had existed before 1066, it is hard to believe that some rather simpler sort of system of accounting had not existed in Anglo-Saxon England.’
  • ‘As with the Germani, so throughout Anglo-Saxon history, the strongest social bonds were the claims of kinship and the claims of lordship.’
  • ‘A new study reported by Nature suggests my English ancestry is less Anglo-Saxon, that is to say less English, than is generally suspected.’
  • ‘Secondly, the Anglo-Saxon background and common English language remain of profound importance to the relationship.’
  • ‘Over half of the camp's thirty-nine staff members are White Anglo-Saxon from upper-middle-class, suburban backgrounds.’
  • ‘What makes Jo Jones think that 80 per cent of our fellow citizens of ‘European descent’ are Anglo-Saxon?’
  • ‘After all, only so-called mainstream American authors counted, and almost all of them were of Anglo-Saxon descent.’
  • ‘Look at your identity subjectively, being Australian does not mean you are Anglo-Saxon or we should place the stigma that Australians means English.’
  • ‘These were divided between English (of Anglo-Saxon and Danish stock) and Norman-French.’
  • ‘Also, a huge number of people around the world whose native language is English do not have predominantly Anglo-Saxon ancestry.’
  • ‘Alternatively, we can kick out all these immigrants, starting with those who claim Anglo-Saxon descent!’
  • ‘For the most part they were men of white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant background who felt themselves to be guardians of true Americanism.’
  • ‘Oddly enough, I memorized the Anglo-Saxon rune alphabet in high school with a friend of mine so we could pass notes in geometry class.’
  • ‘Thus, as the Normans became English-speaking they apparently found it easier to adopt Norman-French substitutes for disused Anglo-Saxon words.’
  • ‘The Scots word 'laird' is a shortened form of 'laverd', an older Scots word deriving from an Anglo-Saxon term meaning lord.’
  • ‘The vast majority of all Anglo-Saxon name variants are included.’
  • ‘It's a good Anglo-Saxon word.’
  • ‘The word "Lent" actually derives from the Anglo-Saxon word lencten, meaning "spring."’
  • ‘The two-man chorus is lent an alliterative, Anglo-Saxon form reminiscent of Heaney's Beowulf.’
  • ‘A particular feature of much Anglo-Saxon verse is the use of 'kennings'.’
  • ‘The runes also show a path of progression from the Elder Futhark, to the Anglo-Saxon runes with some influence from Ogham, to English.’
  • ‘Again, though, not an Anglo-Saxon word.’
  • ‘It occurs, as saetherie, in an Anglo-Saxon medical text of about AD 1000.’
  • ‘The word is probably also a merging with the Anglo Saxon'mæg' which means 'kinswoman' or 'woman.'’
  • ‘The name Frome comes from the Anglo-Saxon word 'frum', meaning rapid, vigorous.’
  • ‘It was a steady stream of expressions drawing heavily on contemporary Anglo-Saxon terms, punctuated by the odd religious saying, dotted with some new words I had picked up from a documentary on LA gang wars.’
  • ‘Nowadays, of course, it has become a synonym for another Anglo-Saxon monosyllable, and packs even less of a charge than the two that describe other, more basic bodily functions.’
  • ‘Spelled out in simple Anglo-Saxon words ‘Patriotism’ reads ‘Women and children first!’’
  • ‘I have words to describe these people, good old Anglo-Saxon epithets in the main, and none of them polite.’
  • ‘French Connection cannot own every derivative or anagram of an Anglo-Saxon swear word.’
  • ‘It is also used to label vernacular English, especially when considered plain, monosyllabic, crude, and vulgar: Anglo-Saxon words.’
  • ‘Superchef Gordon Ramsay has been at it again, enthralling the nation with his unique combination of assured expertise and utter command of Anglo-Saxon expletives.’
  • ‘There have been a few raised eyebrows in recent days about the use, by the third in line to the throne, of one particular Anglo-Saxon expression.’

1 A Germanic inhabitant of England between the 5th century and the Norman Conquest.

  • ‘The English, who are a synthesis of Celts, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings and Norman French, provided the seed for this distinct culture.’
  • ‘Some political and inheritance systems, therefore, such as those of the Anglo-Saxons, the Irish, and the Visigoths, apparently gave far less prominence to the role of the queen than did those of the Franks or the Greeks.’
  • ‘Timber was the most important resource for the Anglo-Saxons and Vikings.’
  • ‘After iron, bronze was probably the commonest metal used by the Anglo-Saxons and Vikings.’
  • ‘At any rate, the movement towards the unification of Anglo-Saxon England made it more difficult for Anglo-Saxons themselves to enslave their fellow countrymen, even if they did come from another tribe.’
  • ‘The Anglo-Saxons of Suffolk at least had some idea of what Africans looked like.’
  • ‘Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Danes, Vikings and Normans invaded Britain repeatedly between 50 BC and AD 1050.’
  • ‘Occasionally, craft techniques can still be found being practiced in various parts of the world that parallel much older crafts that Vikings or Anglo-Saxons themselves practiced.’
  • ‘In the early chapters they are generally victims of invaders such as the Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings and Normans.’
  • ‘After 410, we were told, the Celts of Britain and Ireland - having become Christian - represented the forces of Western civilization against the incoming pagan Anglo-Saxons.’
  • ‘For Besant, ‘the Anglo-Saxon of the ninth century was in essentials very much like his descendant of the present day.’’
  • ‘All sorts of people in Britain have blended together over the centuries - Celts, Anglo-Saxons, Romans, east Europeans, French, Germans, Italians, Jews, Africans and many others.’
  • ‘Most notable amongst these were the counties or shires which the Normans inherited from the Anglo-Saxons.’
  • ‘Iron was a very important commodity to the Anglo-Saxons and Vikings, and those people who were lucky enough to be skilled in working it were held in high regard.’
  • ‘The Vikings' problem is that it was the Anglo-Saxons who wrote the histories.’
  • ‘We're descended from Anglo-Saxons, Celts, Normans and Vikings.’
  • ‘Although the Romano-British Church survived and the Anglo-Saxons would have had contact with indigenous Christians, the Church initially existed only on the fringes of English settlement, as paganism remained strong.’
  • ‘The inhabitants were pushed back by the Anglo-Saxons during the seventh and eighth centuries, though Cornwall held out until the 810s.’
  • ‘The Aryans were supposedly the ancestors of the Greeks, Persians, Indians, Scandinavians, Anglo-Saxons & Germans.’
  • ‘After the departure of the Romans in about 420, there were many wars in England involving Scots, Picts, Britons and Saxons, Anglo-Saxons and Danes, and, in 1066, the Norman conquest.’
  1. 1.1 A person of English descent.
  • ‘To what category such terms were juxtaposed was also unclear: was it the English, the Anglo-Saxons, the British?’
  • ‘Hitler made a deliberate distinction between his plans for the Russians, and his intentions towards the Anglo-Saxons.’
  • ‘The women of nineteenth-century Germany have been strikingly absent in almost any kind of historical work on this period whether written by Germans or Anglo-Saxons.’
  • ‘For the Anglo-Saxons, the Germans, and the Slavs do not possess, and will never possess, what the Latins, with the French at their head, have given and will continue to give to the civilized world.’
  • ‘This may have something to do with the fact that bigger is more acceptable in African-American culture than among the mighty white uptight Anglo-Saxons.’
  • ‘He looked a fairly typical Anglo-Saxon - so why was he speaking to me in Old Norse?’
  • ‘What level does she calculate the immigrant population must exceed before the racist problem kicks in for her, a white woman among what she imagines to be fellow Anglo-Saxons?’
  • ‘There's the fiery passion of the Latins, the cold implied fetishism of the Eastern European, and the faith-based frigidity of white Anglo-Saxons.’
  • ‘They speak in Anglo-Saxon, a dialect which marks their low class.’
  • ‘Both words passed from Anglo-Saxon into English.’
  • ‘The origin of ‘niggard’ is harder to pin down, but the best guesses trace it to Scandinavian origins, with cognates in Anglo-Saxon.’
  • ‘But she was able finally to move in with her brother in London and acquired knowledge of at least eight languages, one of them Anglo-Saxon, for which she prepared and published a Grammar.’
  • ‘Is this what I studied Celt, Anglo-Saxon and Norse at Oxford for?’
  • ‘Here was a formidable antiquarian and linguist, fluent in classical and romance languages, as well as Hebrew, Arabic, Persian, Aramaic, Anglo-Saxon, and a half dozen others.’
  • ‘We are cut off from these illuminated texts by our lack of Latin, Greek, Anglo-Saxon and Norman French.’
  • ‘We do not go back and study French to study the roots of the English language; we go back and study Old English and Anglo-Saxon - or, at least, we used to in the time that I was at university.’
  • ‘It was called the ‘welsh’ onion: nothing to do with Wales, but from an old word, welise in Anglo-Saxon, Welsch in German, meaning ‘foreign’.’
  • ‘These were written in Anglo-Saxon, the spoken tongue, rather than Latin which was the language of the church.’
  • ‘He exhibited a gift for languages, studying Latin, Greek, Italian, German, and Anglo-Saxon, while also pursuing interests in law, medicine, and music.’
  • ‘Tolkien was a philologist specializing in the history of the English language, and Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University.’
  • ‘In the following, italics are used for words in Swedish, while bold text indicates Old English, or Anglo-Saxon.’
  • ‘Modern English has two parents, Norman French and Anglo-Saxon.’
  • ‘The common tongue was by then very different from Old English or Anglo-Saxon.’
  • ‘Said Narayan in a paper at the Leeds seminar in 1964: ‘We are not attempting to write Anglo-Saxon.’’
  • ‘Well firstly I think I'm right in saying that at the time when he went to Oxford, the first two terms of an English course was spent reading Virgil's Aeneid in Latin, and Beowulf in Anglo-Saxon.’
  • ‘This is precisely ten times as many as the number of Celtic loan-words in Anglo-Saxon.’
  • ‘Old English or Anglo-Saxon is the origin of lapwing, from hléapan, to leap - ‘with reference to manner of flight’, says the COD.’
  • ‘The dialects of Northumberland have their foundations firmly rooted in Old English Anglo-Saxon, with huge influences from Scandanavia.’
  • ‘One of the best tax specialists I know, for example, took a degree in Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic before acquiring his taxation knowledge.’
  1. 2.1 informal Plain English, in particular vulgar slang.
  • ‘Note the pedigree beasts understand very loud Anglo-Saxon.’
  • ‘I fear that the switch from ‘carry’ to ‘convey’ is simply the inveterate lawyer's habit of switching from Anglo-Saxon to Latinate, but otherwise, no.’
  • ‘At first glance that hardly seems likely, given that Romanov has to speak through an interpreter - and how do you translate Lithuanian into basic Anglo-Saxon?’
  • ‘In Gaelic, apparently, one word serves for both - but unfortunately this war of words has been conducted in English, albeit with some ripe Anglo-Saxon thrown in.’
  • ‘‘Merde,’ I declared, only in basic Anglo-Saxon.’

From modern Latin Anglo-Saxones (plural), medieval Latin Angli Saxones.

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