anglo saxonism history definition

anglo saxonism history definition

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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The history of Anglo-Saxon England covers the history of England from the end of Roman Britain and the establishment of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in the fifth century until the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. Anglo-Saxon is a general term that refers to tribes of German origin who came to Britain, including Angles, Saxons, Frisians and Jutes.

There is a wide range of source material that covers Anglo-Saxon England.

There are four main literary sources:

  • Gildas' The Ruin of Britain (c. 540 AD) was written, as a polemic, concerned with criticising the Romano-British kings, rather than as an historical document although, in reality, has proved invaluable as an historical source. [ 1 ][ 2 ]
  • Bede'sEcclesiastical History of the English People was written in the early 8th century. [ 3 ]
  • NenniusThe History of the British written about 800 AD. [ 4 ]
  • The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle were a series of documents that charted Anglo-Saxon history from the mid-fifth century till 1066 although one version extends till 1154. [ 5 ] They were commissioned during the reign of Alfred the Great in the 9th century. [ 6 ]

Other written sources include:

  • Law codes for example, there were four sets that originated in the seventh century; the first three sets were issued by the Kings of Kent Æthelberht I, Hlothhere and Eadric and Wihtred. The fourth was that of Ine of Wessex. [ 7 ][ 8 ]
  • The Charters was a series of legal documents that were primarily (though not exclusively) for the grant of land to individuals by the kings of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. [ 9 ]
  • Biographies, hagiography, letters and poetry. [ 10 ][ 11 ][ 12 ]
  • Toponymy - The study of place names. [ 13 ]
  • Henry of Huntingdon - English historian of the 12th century and archdeacon of Huntingdon. [ 14 ]
  • Roger of Wendover - an English chronicler of the 13th century. [ 15 ]
  • Geoffrey of Monmouth - a 12th century English chronicler. [ 16 ]
  • Domesday Book - although compiled in 1086 after the Norman Conquest one of it's functions was to ascertain who held what and the taxes due under Edward the Confessor. [ 17 ]

None literary sources include:

As the Roman occupation of England was coming to an end, Constantine III withdrew the remains of the army, in reaction to the barbarian invasion of Europe. [ 19 ] [ 20 ] The Romano-British leaders were faced with an increasing security problem from sea borne raids particularly by Picts on the East coast of England. [ 21 ] The expedient adopted by the Romano-British leaders was to enlist the help of Anglo-Saxon mercenaries (known as foederati) to whom they ceded territory. [ 21 ] [ 22 ] In about 442AD the Anglo-Saxons mutinied apparently because they had not been paid adequately. [ 23 ] The British responded by appealing to the Roman commander of the Western empire Aëtius for help (known as the Groans of the Britons), but it seems that the only response they received was from the Western Roman Emperor who wrote to say that the British should look to their own defence. [ 24 ] [ 25 ] [ 26 ] There then followed several years of fighting between the British and the Anglo-Saxons. [ 27 ] The period of fighting continued till about 500AD, when at the Battle of Mount Badon, the Britons inflicted a severe defeat on the Anglo-Saxons. [ 28 ]

Migration and the formation of kingdoms (400-600)

There are records of Germanic infiltration into Britain that date before the collapse of the Roman Empire. [ 29 ] It is believed that the earliest Germanic visitors were eight cohorts of Batavians attached to the Legio XIV Gemina in the original invasion force under Aulus Plautius in 43AD. [ 29 ] It was quite common for Rome to swell it's legions with foederati recruited from the German homelands. [ 30 ] This practice also extended to the army serving in Britain and graves of these mercernaries along with their families can be identified in the Roman cemeteries of the period. [ 31 ] The migration continued with the departure of the Roman army when Anglo-Saxons were recruited to defend Britain and also during the period of the Anglo-Saxon first rebellion of 442AD. [ 32 ]

After the defeat of the Anglo-Saxons by the British, at the Battle of Mount Badon, in c.500AD, where according to Gildas the British resistance was led by a man called Ambrosius Aurelianus, Anglo-Saxon migration was temporarly stemmed. [ 28 ] Gildas also said that it was "forty-four years and one month" after the arrival of the Saxons, and was the year of his birth. [ 28 ] He said what followed was a time of great prosperity. [ 28 ] But despite the lull the Anglo-Saxons took control of Sussex, Kent, East Anglia and part of Yorkshire,and the West Saxons founded a kingdom in Hampshire under Cerdic around 520AD. [ 33 ] However it was to be 50 years before the Anglo-Saxons began further major advances. [ 33 ] In the intervening years the Britons exhausted themselves with civil war, internal disputes and general unrest, which was the inspiration behind Gildas and his De Excidio Britanniae (The Ruin of Britain). [ 34 ]

The next major campaign against the Britons was in 577AD, led by Cealin, king of Wessex, whose campaigns succeeded in taking Cirencester, Gloucester and Bath. [ 35 ] [ 33 ] This expansion of Wessex ended abruptly when the English started fighting amongst themselves, which resulted in Cealin eventually having to retreat to his original territory and then being being killed and replaced by Ceol (possibly his nephew). [ 36 ] [ 37 ]

If the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles are to be believed, then the various Anglo-Saxon kingdoms that eventually merged to become England, were founded when small fleets of three or five ships of invaders arrived at various points around the coast of England to fight the Sub-Roman British and conquer their lands. [ 38 ] As Magaret Gelling points out, when talking of place name evidence, what actually happened between the departure of the Romans and the coming of the Normans is subject to much debate by historians. [ 39 ]

The arrival of the Anglo-Saxons into Britain can be seen in the context of a general movement of German people around Europe between the years 300 - 700 AD known as the Migration period (also called the Barbarian Invasions or Völkerwanderung). In the same time period there were migrations of Britons to the Amorican peninsula (Brittany and Normandy in modern day France) initially at around 383AD during Roman rule but also c.460AD and the 540s and 550s AD, the 460s migration is thought to be a reaction to the fighting during the Anglo-Saxon mutiny between about 450 to 500AD, as was the migration to Britonia (modern day Galicia, in northwest Spain) at about the same time. [ 40 ]

The historian Peter Hunter-Blair expounded probably what is now regarded as the traditional view of the Anglo-Saxon arrival in Britain. [ 41 ] That is of mass immigration and fighting and driving the Sub-Roman Britons off their land into the western extremities of the islands and the Breton and Iberian peninsulas. [ 42 ] The more modern view is of co-existence between the British and the Anglo-Saxons. [ 18 ] [ 43 ] Discussions and analysis still continues on the size of the migration and whether it was a small elite band of Anglo-Saxons who came in and took over the running of the country or was it indeed a mass migration of peoples who overwhelmed the Britons? [ 44 ] [ 45 ] [ 46 ]

By 600AD a new order was developing of kingdoms and sub-Kingdoms, Henry of Huntingdon (a medieval historian) conceived the idea of the Heptarchy which consisted of the seven principle Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. [ 47 ]

The four main kingdoms in Anglo-Saxon England were:

Other minor kingdoms and territories

  • Isle of Wight, (Wihtwara)
  • The Meonwara The Meon Valley area of Hampshire
  • Surrey
  • Kingdom of the Iclingas, a precursor state to Mercia
  • Lindsey
  • The Hwicce
  • Magonsæte
  • Pecsæte
  • Wreocensæte
  • Tomsæte
  • Haestingas
  • Middle Angles

Heptarchy and Christianisation (600-800)

Christianization of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms began in 597 AD, influenced by Celtic Christianity from the northwest and by the Roman Catholic Church from the southeast. The first Archbishop of Canterbury, Augustine, took office in 597. In 601, he baptised the first Christian Anglo-Saxon king, Aethelbert of Kent. The last pagan Anglo-Saxon king, Arwald of the Isle of Wight, was killed in 686. The Anglo-Saxon mission on the continent took off in the eighth century, leading to the Christianisation of practically all of the Frankish Empire by AD 800.

Throughout the seventh and eighth centuries, power fluctuated among the larger kingdoms. Bede records Aethelbert of Kent as being dominant at the close of the sixth century, but power seems to have shifted northwards to the kingdom of Northumbria, which was formed from the amalgamation of Bernicia and Deira. Edwin probably held dominance over much of Britain, though Bede's Northumbria bias should be kept in mind. Succession crises meant Northumbrian hegemony was not constant, and Mercia remained a very powerful kingdom, especially under Penda. Two defeats essentially ended Northumbrian dominance: the Battle of the Trent (679) against Mercia, and Nechtanesmere (685) against the Picts.

The so-called 'Mercian Supremacy' dominated the 8th century, though again was not constant. Aethelbald and Offa, the two most powerful kings, achieved high status; indeed, Offa was considered the overlord of south Britain by Charlemagne. That Offa could summon the resources to build Offa's Dyke is testament to his power. However, a rising Wessex, and challenges from smaller kingdoms, kept Mercian power in check, and by the end of the 8th century the 'Mercian Supremacy', if it existed at all, was over.

Viking challenge and the rise of Wessex (9th century)

The first recorded Viking attack in Britain was in 793 at Lindisfarne monastery as given by the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. However, by then the Vikings were almost certainly well established in Orkney and Shetland, and it is probable that many other non-recorded raids occurred before this. Records do show the first Viking attack on Iona taking place in 794. The arrival of the Vikings, in particular the Danish Great Heathen Army, upset the political and social geography of Britain and Ireland. Alfred the Great's victory at Edington in 878 stemmed the Danish attack; however, by then Northumbria had devolved into Bernicia and a Viking kingdom, Mercia had been split down the middle, and East Anglia ceased to exist as an Anglo-Saxon polity. The Vikings had similar effects on the various kingdoms of the Irish, Scots, Picts and (to a lesser extent) Welsh. Certainly in North Britain the Vikings were one reason behind the formation of the Kingdom of Alba, which eventually evolved into Scotland.

After a time of plunder and raids, the Vikings began to settle in England. An important Viking centre was York, called Jorvik by the Vikings. Various alliances between the Viking Kingdom of York and Dublin rose and fell. Danish and Norwegian settlement made enough of an impact to leave significant traces in the English language; many fundamental words in modern English are derived from Old Norse, though of the 100 most used words in English the vast majority are Old English in origin. Similarly, many place-names in areas of Danish and Norwegian settlement have Scandinavian roots. For example, Howe, Norfolk ‎ and Howe, North Yorkshire‎, both topographic place names derived from the Old Norse word haugr meaning hill, knoll or mound. [ 48 ] [ 49 ]

An important development of the ninth century was the rise of the Kingdom of Wessex. Though not without setbacks, by the end of Alfred's reign (899) the West Saxon kings came to rule what had previously been Wessex, Sussex and Kent. Cornwall (Kernow) was subject to West Saxon dominance, and several kings of the more southerly Welsh kingdoms recognised Alfred as their overlord, as did western Mercia under Alfred's son-in-law Æthelred.

English Unification (10th century)

Alfred of Wessex died in 899 and was succeeded by his son Edward the Elder. Edward, and his brother-in-law Æthelred of (what was left of) Mercia, fought off Danish attacks and began a programme of expansion, seizing territory from the Danes and establishing fortifications to defend it. Upon Æthelred's death, his wife (Edward's sister) Æthelflæd ruled as "Lady of the Mercians" and continued expansion in conjunction with Edward. By 918 Edward had gained control of the whole of England south of the Humber. In that year Æthelflæd died, and Mercia was fully integrated with Wessex into a single kingdom. Edward's son Æthelstan was the first king to achieve direct rulership of the whole of England, following his conquest of Northumbria in 927. The titles attributed to him in charters and on coins suggest a still more widespread dominance. He defeated an attempt to reverse the conquest of Northumbria by a combined Scottish-Viking army at the Battle of Brunanburh. However, after his death the unification of England was repeatedly contested. His successors Edmund and Eadred each lost control of Northumbria to fresh Norse attacks before regaining it once more. Nevertheless, by the time of Eadred's successor Edgar, who ruled the same expanse as Æthelstan, the unification of England had been permanently established.

England under the Danes and the Norman Conquest (978-1066)

There were renewed Norse attacks on England in the final decade of the 10th century, coinciding with the start of the reign of Æthelred. Æthelred ruled a long reign (in all, 38 years), but ultimately lost his kingdom to the Viking Sweyn of Denmark, though he recovered it following the latter's death. However, Æthelred's eldest son Edmund II Ironside died shortly after him, allowing Cnut the Great, Sweyn's son, to become king of England, which then became part of a Viking empire stretching from Denmark to Ireland. It was possibly in this period that the Viking influence on English culture became ingrained, although Vikings had been settled in the Danelaw (England north of Watling Street) for at least a century earlier.

Rule over England fluctuated between the descendants of Æthelred and Canute for the first half of the 11th century. Ultimately this resulted, by 1066, in several people having a claim to the English throne. The most powerful Earl in England, Harold Godwinson, claimed the crown on 5 January, within a day of the death of Edward the Confessor, and was confirmed by the English witan. However William of Normandy, who was a relation of Æthelred's second wife Emma, and also Harald Hardrada of Norway (who invaded Northumbria in 1066, two weeks before the Battle of Hastings, aided by Harold Godwinson's estranged brother Tostig) laid claim to the crown. Another claimant, Edgar the Ætheling - the grandson of Ironside - was prevented by his youth from playing a large part in the struggles of 1066.

Invasion was the result. Harold Godwinson defeated Harald of Norway and Tostig at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in October 1066 (the death of Harald Hardrada and the massacre of the Viking army was such a devastating defeat that England was never again menaced by the Vikings); but he fell in battle against William of Normandy at the Battle of Hastings a few days later.

William began a programme of consolidation in England, being crowned on Christmas Day 1066. However, his authority was always under threat in England, where there were repeated rebellions until 1071. The little space given to Northumbria in the Domesday Book is testament to the troubles there during William's reign.

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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glassware made in England from the late 16th to the late 17th centuries in imitation of Venetian models.

noun, adjective (Austral) of or relating to an inhabitant of Australia who was or whose ancestors were born in the British Isles Historical Examples The picture is of a land which appeals very strongly to the adventurous type of the anglo-celtic race. Peeps At Many Lands: Australia Frank Fox The jaded palate of the anglo-celtic […]

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