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Anglo-Saxons in Britain, for Children

An Anglo-Saxon helmet found at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk

The Anglo-Saxons were people from the north of what is now modern Germany, who came and  settled in the British Isles over a thousand years ago. These people lived alone in Britain for hundreds of years and brought with them much of the English language, our customs and our laws.

From the fifth through to the eleventh centuries the Anglo-Saxons occupied what would later become Great Britain, between the time of the Romans and the Norman invasion in 1066. It's difficult to say for certain when they arrived as they did not keep as much written down as we do. Archaeological sites show us remnants dating back to the middle of the fifth century. The Anglo-Saxons lived in the country until the Battle of Hastings in 1066 when the Norman invaders won the war.

The Anglo-Saxons are a collection of Germanic tribes, including the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes. "Germanic" refers to the lands of the North Sea Coast, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and France. The ancestry of many of the people living in England today can be traced back to these groups of people. For example, many of the people in Kent and the Isle of Wight are descended from the Jutes. The words 'Middlesex', 'Essex' and 'Sussex' all come from names of Saxon kingdoms in England.  And the even the word 'England' itself comes from the Angles who settled there - it really means 'Angle Land'!

The way the Anglo-Saxons ruled their country has come down to us through the generations. Land was what made the Anglo-Saxons rich, so the Lord owned the land and he would divide out his wealth amongst his population. This would later change into the Kings owning the land, while the people of the kingdom worked the land for the King. These different bits of land were called shires, and different castles would be built for the reigning monarch of the day. Malmesbury England is the oldest borough dating back to the time of the Saxons and the first King of England, Athelstan, ruled from there.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is an annual account of all the major skirmishes, wars, and events (it's definitely not a newspaper). Within the Chronicle we can read about invasions from the Vikings and the death of Eric Bloodaxe at the hands of the army of Wessex army in 954, see the rise of the power of Bishops and the church, read about the death of Edward the Confessor in 1066 and the end of the kingdom of The Anglo-Saxons.

Although England was invaded by the army of William the Conqueror in 1066, Anglo-Saxon Britain never really went away. The Normans introduced a new language to add to Anglo-Saxon - French - but never replaced it. And the majority of the people living in England remained the same; it was just the King and barons who changed. Many different cultures have made Britain the way it is today, but none have been as important as the Anglo-Saxons.

This is an original news article © The Kids Window

One in a series of articles about History written for children.   

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