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The Anglo-Saxon period began with the appearance of Angles, Saxons, and Jutes in Britain some times around 500 AD, after the fall of the Roman Empire. It was an eventful period, with changes in language and culture developing as the newcomers settled in.

The period ended after the Battle of Hastings in 1066 AD, when Normans began their conquest of the island.

The Anglo-Saxons spoke various dialects of the Germanic language we now call Old English, the direct ancestor of the English we speak today. They had a strong story-telling tradition and strong poetic conventions, which we know through the manuscripts that remain. Written Old English had several characters that do not exist in modern English. These links are helpful in understanding Old English:

  • Overview of the Old English language
  • Bright’s Anglo-Saxon Reader is an excellent primer of Old English.
  • Exercises to learn Old English
  • Fonts with Old English characters
  • B. Slade’s edition and translation of Beowulf, on facing pages. The site also includes text of other Old English Poems (The Fight at Finnsburh, Waldere, Deor, Woden’s Nine Herbs Charm, Bede’s Account of Cædmon) and background information about Old English poetry.
  • Audio sections of Beowulf read in Old English from the University of Virginia
  • Complete texts of all Old English poems, but no translation

The Anglo-Saxons had a complex social system, a long and intricate history, and a rich physical culture. These links are helpful in understanding Anglo-Saxon history and culture:

Anglo-Saxon life was so different from modern life that it sometimes seems to be the stuff of legend. Luckily, we can understand the Anglo-Saxons quite well through studying their language and artifacts. They left a rich legacy to explore.

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