Recommended Reading List

This is not an exhaustive list of books but will provide a good general introduction.

General background

Anglo-Saxon England, Sir Frank Stenton. The essential reference book.

The Anglo-Saxons, (ed) James Campbell. An introduction to the history of Anglo-Saxon England covering political, religious, cultural, social, legal and economic matters with reference to source material and with photographs and illustrations.

The Anglo-Saxon World. Nicholas J Higham and Martin J Ryan. Includes articles on key Anglo-Saxon excavated sites, the Staffordshire Hoard, Arthur, Bede, the Viking Age and York.

In Search of the Dark Ages (updated 40th anniversary edition), Michael Wood. An introduction to Sutton Hoo, Penda, Theodore and Hadrian, Offa, Alfred the Great, Æþelflæd, Æthelstan, Wynflæd, Eadgyth of Wessex, Eric Bloodaxe, and Æthelred the Unready.

The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Anglo-Saxon England, (ed) Michael Lapidge et al. A general reference book with numerous articles by experts on a range of topics. This may be best accessed via a reference library as it is rather more expensive than most of the books on this list.

Daily Life in Anglo-Saxon England, Sally Crawford. A discussion of the daily lives of ordinary men, women and children in Anglo-Saxon England. The book’s topics cover: The Anglo-Saxons in England; society, taxes and administration; housing and households; population density and life expectancy; food and drink; clothing and appearance; trade and travel; death and religion; health, sickness and survival; slaves, criminals and outcasts; and conquest and conclusions.

The Year 1000. An Englishman’s Year, Robert Lacy and Danny Danziger. An insight into the daily life of ordinary men and women in the year 1000 month by month with illustrations taken from the “Labour of the Months” the Julius calendar produced at Canterbury in Kent.

Kings and Kingdoms of Early Anglo-Saxon England.  Barbara Yorke. Routledge, 2013. A survey of the six major kingdoms – Kent, East Saxons, East angles, Northumbria, Mercia and Wessex prior to the formation of England in the 10th century.

Winters in the World. Eleanor Parker. A beautifully observed journey through the cycle of the year in Anglo-Saxon England, exploring the festivals, customs and traditions linked to the different seasons.

Original texts and literature

A History of the English Church & People, Bede (various editions and translations available).  Bede “set himself to examine all available records, to secure verbal or written accounts from reliable living authorities, to record local traditions and stories, to interpret significant events, and, in short, to compile as complete and continuous a history of the English Church and people as lay within his power.” The views and records of this Anglo-Saxon writer should not be too easily dismissed.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles. GN Garmondsway. These chronicles report key events of the Anglo-Saxon period. Several versions exist, with slight variations to include localised items. The chronicles span the period from the birth of Christ to the 12th century and were written in Old English during and after the reign of Alfred.

The Anglo-Saxon World, an Anthology, (ed) Kevin Crossley- Holland. A collection of Old English texts-chronicles, laws, letters, charters, charms and poems – translated into modern English with an introduction.

A Choice of Anglo-Saxon Verse, (ed) Richard Hamer. Examples of Anglo-Saxon verse – The Battle of Maldon, The Dream of the Rood, The Wanderer, The Seafarer etc. – in Old English with parallel modern English translation.

The Age of Bede. JF Webb. A selection of early church writings from the 6th and 7th centuries, including saints’ lives and the Voyage of Brendan.

Alfred the Great. Simon Keynes & Michael Lapidge. A collection of material from the time of Alfred including Asser’s Life of King Alfred, maps, genealogies, Alfred’s own translations and various extracts from a range of documents from the 9th century.

The Cambridge Old English Reader. Richard Marsden. Extracts from verse and prose in Old English as well as a section on learning the language and extensive notes on the extracts themselves.

Beowulf: A New Translation. Seamus Heaney. Acclaimed translation of the greatest Anglo-Saxon epic poem.

Archaeology and material culture

1066. The Hidden History of the Bayeux Tapestry, Andrew Bridgford. Despite its superficial Norman viewpoint, the author reveals some of the hidden meaning of the Tapestry recording a very different story from the English viewpoint.

Anglo-Saxon Pottery and the Settlement of England, J.N.L.Myres. One of the most important books on a much-neglected subject.

Anglo-Saxon Crafts, Kevin Leahy. This book discusses the skills and techniques involved in creating the treasures of the Anglo-Saxons.

Anglo-Saxon Art, Leslie Webster. A discussion of Anglo-Saxon art in its wider cultural context, showing how it was shaped, transformed and given meaning.

Anglo-Saxon Animal Art and its Germanic Background George Speake. Anglo-Saxon Art of the 6th and 7th centuries. Mainly ‘the decoration of personal jewellery, belt-fittings, brooches, pendants, weapons,’ drinking horns etc.

Dress in Anglo-Saxon England, Gale Owen-Crocker. An encyclopedic study of Anglo-Saxon dress, from the 5th to 11th centuries based on evidence from archaeology, texts and art.

The Mead-Hall, Stephen Pollington. The Mead-Hall was the centre of early English culture.

Old English language

First Steps in Old English.  Stephen Pollington. This “teach-yourself” book covers the essentials of vocabulary and grammar and has achieved something like classic status.

Learn Old English with Leofwin. Matt Love. Introduction to Old English in a fun and conversational style.

A Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary, J.R. Clark Hall. This provides Old English to Modern English vocabulary.

Wordcraft: New English to Old English Dictionary and Thesaurus. Stephen Pollington. The book provides a basic introduction to the vocabulary of Modern English into Old English aimed at those who wish to compose original work in Old English.

The Wordhord: Daily Life in Old English Hana Videen. An entertaining collection of strange, delightful and unexpectedly apt words from the origins of English, which illuminates the lives, beliefs and habits of our linguistic ancestors.