'Here lies our leader all cut down, the valiant man in the dust.' The elegiac words of the Battle of Maldon, an epic poem written to celebrate the bravery of an English army defeated by Viking raiders in 991, emerge from a diverse literature - including Beowulf and Bede's Ecclesiastical History - produced by the people known as the Anglo-Saxons: Germanic tribes who migrated to Britain from Lower Saxony and Denmark in the early fifth century CE. The era once known as the 'Dark Ages' was marked by stunning cultural advances, and Henrietta Leyser here offers a fresh analysis of exciting recent discoveries made in the archaeology and art of the Anglo-Saxon world. Arguing that the desperate struggle (led by Alfred the Great) against the Vikings helped define a distinctively English sensibility, the author explores relations with the indigenous British, the Anglo-Saxon conversion to Christianity, the ascendancy of Mercia and the rise of Wessex. This vivid history evokes both the emergent kingdoms of Alfred and Offa and the golden treasures of Sutton Hoo. It will appeal to students of early medieval history and to all those who wish to understand how England was born.
In eight invigorating chapters, Henrietta Leyser covers a period of six hundred years from the settlement of Germanic peoples across eastern and southern Britain, in the fifth and sixth centuries, to the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. She provides a lively and well-balanced assessment of the ways in which social, cultural, economic and political forces interacted with each other, leading to the emergence of a unified kingdom of the English and its conquest. It is over thirty years since a book of this scope and nature has appeared; and Dr Leyser is a very skilful guide to all that has changed in our perception of the Anglo-Saxon world-order. --Simon Keynes, Elrington and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon, University of Cambridge"
'Rich in erudition, this book wears its learning lightly and engages the reader throughout by posing as many questions as it answers. Texts, artefacts and historical events are deftly interwoven. Dr Leyser shrewdly negotiates the complex interactions between faith and politics in the period, grounding her assumptions in a wholly convincing context. A truly excellent short history.' --Susan Irvine, Quain Professor of English Language and Literature, University College London