Timeline of conflict in Anglo-Saxon Britain

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The Timeline of conflict in Anglo-Saxon Britain is concerned with the period of history from just before the departure of the Roman Army, in the 4th century, to just after the Norman Conquest in the 11th century.


The information is mainly derived from annals and the Venerable Bede. The dates, particularly from the fourth to the late sixth centuries, have very few contemporary sources and are largely later constructions by medieval chroniclers. [1] The historian Diana Greenway described one such 12th-century chronicler, Henry of Huntingdon, as a 'weaver' compiler of history, and the archaeologist Martin Welch described the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as "a product of the West Saxon court... concerned with glorifying the royal ancestry of Alfred the Great. Manipulation of royal genealogies, in this and other sources, to enhance the claims of contemporary rulers was common. Literary formulas associated with original myths are a common feature of earlier entries." [2] [3] Although the timeline uses the annals for this period of history, information provided by these sources can be problematic, particularly with the earlier dates.


Constructing a chronology of the early Anglo-Saxon period, and how the Anglo-Saxons took over land in Britain from Romano-Britons (Celtic-speakers, Latin-speakers, or both), is highly complex. The limitations of source material place constraints on just how accurate any chronology can be. As an example, the following table shows how much variation there is between historians on just one date, the Battle of Badon:

Suggested dates for the Battle of Badon
Sources [4] Date
Annales Cambriae516
Highamc. 430 – c. 440
Snyderc. 485
M. Wood490s
Dumvillec. 500
I. Woodc. 485 – c.520

Much of the dating of the period comes from Bede (672/673–735), who in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People , tried to compute dates for events in early Anglo-Saxon history. [5] Although primarily writing about church history, Bede is seen as Britain's first true historian, in that he cited his references and listed events according to dates rather than regnal lists. [5] So we know that he relied heavily on De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae by Gildas, a sixth-century cleric, for his early dates and historians have found Gildas unreliable where dates were concerned. [6] Bede's work was widely read among the literate in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, and his dates were used by the monks who compiled the various Anglo-Saxon Chronicles from the late ninth century onwards. [7] Some sources say that the Saxon warriors were invited to come, to the area now known as England, to help keep out invaders from Scotland and Ireland. Another reason for coming may have been because their land often flooded and it was difficult to grow crops, so they were looking for new places to settle down and farm.

The most controversial dates in the period—those from the fourth to the late sixth centuries—have very few contemporary sources, and are mainly derived from later attempts to construct Anglo-Saxon history. [1]

The following is an outline of some events recorded in Bede's Ecclesiastical History, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the Welsh Annals ( Annales Cambriae ), and Brut y Tywysogion . Many of the dates from the fourth, fifth, and sixth century are points of contention. [8]

AC = "from the Annales Cambriae " (English translation at this link).
ASC = "from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle ".
B = "from Bede's writings".
ByT = "from Brut y Tywysogion ".
(?) = Dates and events that are contentious or subject to debate.

4th century

5th century

6th century

7th century

8th century

9th century

10th century

11th century

ASC Notes

The Timeline was constructed using the following extracts from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, they are in their original Old English form. For a more complete version and explanation Click Here  :

  1. ASC 455. Her Hengest & Horsa fuhton wiþ Wyrtgeorne þam cyninge, in þære stowe þe is gecueden Agælesþrep, & his broþur Horsan man ofslog; & æfter þam Hengest feng to rice & Æsc his sunu.
  2. ASC 457.Her Hengest & Æsc fuhton wiþ Brettas in þære stowe þe is gecueden Crecganford & þær ofslogon .iiiim. wera, & þa Brettas þa forleton Centlond & mid micle ege flugon to Lundenbyrg.
  3. ASC 465. Her Hengest & Æsc gefuhton uuiþ Walas neah Wippedesfleote & þær .xii. wilisce aldormenn ofslogon, & hiera þegn an þær wearþ ofslægen, þam wæs noma Wipped.
  4. ASC 473. Her Hengest & Æsc gefuhton wiþ Walas & genamon unarimedlico herereaf, & þa Walas flugon þa Englan swa þær fyr.
  5. ASC 477. Her cuom Ælle on Bretenlond & his .iii. suna, Cymen & Wlencing & Cissa, mid .iii. scipum on þa stowe þe is nemned Cymenesora, & þær ofslogon monige Wealas & sume on fleame bedrifon on þone wudu þe is genemned Andredesleage.
  6. ASC 485. Her Ælle gefeaht wiþ Walas neah Mearcrædesburnan stæðe.
  7. ASC 491.Her Ælle & Cissa ymbsæton Andredescester & ofslogon alle þa þe þærinne eardedon; ne wearþ þær forþon an Bret to lafe.
  8. ASC 501.Her cuom Port on Bretene & his .ii. suna Bieda & Mægla mid .ii. scipum on þære stowe þe is gecueden Portesmuþa & ofslogon anne giongne Brettiscmonnan, swiþe æþelne monnan.
  9. ASC 508.Her Cerdic & Cynric ofslogon ænne Brettisccyning, þam was nama Natanleod, & .v. þusendu wera mid him. Æfter was þæt lond nemned Natanleaga oþ Cerdicesford.
  10. ASC 571.Her Cuþwulf feaht wiþ Bretwalas æt Bedcan forda. & .iiii. tunas genom, Lygeanburg. & Ægelesburg. Benningtun. & Egonesham. & þy ilcan geare he gefor.
  11. ASC 577.Her Cuþwine & Ceawlin fuhton wiþ Brettas, & hie .iii. kyningas ofslogon, Coinmail, & Condidan, & Farinmail, in þære stowe þe is gecueden Deorham. & genamon .iii. ceastro Gleawanceaster, & Cirenceaster, & Baþanceaster.
  12. ASC 584.Her Ceawlin & Cuþa fuhton wiþ Brettas, in þam stede þe mon nemneþ Feþanleag. & Cuþan mon ofslog. & Ceaulin monige tunas genom, & unarimedlice herereaf, & ierre he hwearf þonan to his agnum.
  13. ASC 614.Her Cynegils & Cuichelm gefuhton on Beandune, & ofslogon .ii. þusendo Wala & .lxvi.
  14. ASC 642.Her Oswald Norþanhymbra cyning ofslægen wæs.
  15. ASC 658.Her Cenwalh gefeaht æt Peonnum wiþ Walas, & hie gefliemde oþ Pedridan; þis wæs gefohten siþþan he of East Englum com. He wæs þær .iii. gear on wrece, hæfde hine Penda adrifenne, & rices benumenne. forþon he his swostor anforlet.
  16. ASC 682. On þissum geare Centwine gefliemde Bretwealas oþ sę.On the Parker MS it was 682. On the Cotton Tiberius 683
  17. ASC 710..... & þam ylcan geare feaht Beorhtfrið ealdorman wið Pehtas betwux Hæfe & Cære, & Ine & Nun his mæg gefuhton wið Gerente Weala cyninge,
  18. ASC 794.Her Adrianus papa & Offa cyning forþferdon ...
  19. ASC 813.... & þy geare gehergade Ecgbryht cyning on West Walas from easteweardum oþ westewearde.
  20. ASC 823.Her wæs Wala gefeoht & Defna æt Gafulforda. ...
  21. ASC 835.Her cuom micel sciphere on Westwalas & hie to anum gecierdon, & wiþ Ecgbryht West Seaxna cyning winnende wæron. Þa he þæt hierde & mid fierde ferde & him wiþ feaht æt Hengestdune & þær gefliemde ge þa Walas ge þa Deniscan.

See also


  1. 1 2 Gransden. Historical Writing. Ch. 1. Gildas and Nennius
  2. Huntingdon. Historia Anglorum. p. 97
  3. Welch. Anglo-Saxon England. p. 9.
  4. 1 2 Snyder. The Britons. p. 123.; Jones.The End of Roman Britain. pp. 44–45.; Morris. Dark Age Dates. p. 154.; Michael Wood. The Domesday Quest. p. 64.; Bede.EH. Book 1. Ch. 15–16.; Annales Cambriae.
  5. 1 2 Gransden. Historical Writing. pp. 11–23
  6. Bede. Ecclesiastical History. Farmer Ed. p. 24.
  7. Alfred the Great. Asser.(2004) pp. 275–281. - Discussion of sources, authors, dates and accuracy
  8. J. Campbell, 'The Lost Centuries: 400–600' in The Anglo-Saxons. ed. J. Campbell, et al.) pp. 20–44
  9. D.J.V. Fisher, The Anglo-Saxon Age c.400-1042, London: Longman, 1973, ISBN   0-582-48277-1
  10. Esmonde Cleary. The Ending of Roman Britain. pp.137 - 138. The source for the Rescript of Honorius was Zosimus, he was a chronicler from the eastern part of the Roman Empire. He was writing in the late 5th and early 6th century. His work was copying earlier sources and it seems that he may have compressed a lot of the dates. Also the Rescript of Honorius was in a section discussing northern Italy and Liguria. It has been suggested that the name copied down was in error and that the copyist mistranscribed Brettannia (Britain) for Brettia or Brittia, which is a place in southern Italy
  11. Butler, Rev. Alban, "St. Germanus, Bishop of Auxerre, Confessor", The Lives of the Saints, Vol. VII, 1866
  12. Gildas. The Ruin of Britain 23. Gildas says that it is Saxons who come over to fight the Picts and settle, whereas Bede, HE.Book 1 Ch 15 suggests that it is Angles or Saxons.
  13. Welch.Anglo-Saxon England p.9.- When Aella and his three sons land from three ships on a beach named after one of the sons, we are reading legend rather than history.
  14. Ashe, Geoffrey, From Caesar to Arthur pp.295-8
  15. R. Ernest Dupuy and Trevor N. Dupuy, The Harper Encyclopedia of Military History From 3500 B.C. to the Present, Fourth Edition (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1993), 193.
  16. C. Warren Hollister, The Making of England to 1399, Eighth Edition (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2001), 31.
  17. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, 577.
  18. A History of the County of Gloucestershire vol.10. suggests that Fethanleag could possibly be Fretherne, Gloucestershire another possible place according to A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 6. is perhaps near Stoke Lyne in Oxfordshire
  19. Stenton. The Age of Arthur.p.299. The English were badly beaten on the Wye in 584, and Cealin returned home in anger...in 591 a new king is said to have ruled over the Gewissae (West Saxons)... wars between the English drove him (Cealin) back to his original territory...
  20. Macbean, Lachlan (1924), Kirkcaldy Burgh and Schyre .
  21. Mercia and the Making of England. p. 107
  22. Mercia and the Making of England. p. 84
  23. "Wolverhampton City Council - Anniversary of historic battle". www.wolverhampton.gov.uk. Archived from the original on 12 August 2013.
  24. 1 2 Wood. In search of the Dark Ages.pp. 146 - 147.He(Athelstan) now attacked the 'West Welsh'(Cornish) ..crushed their opposition, deported the dissident minority, established a new boundary at the Tamar.. Athelstan was remembered in Cornwall not as a conquering warlord but as the benefactor of their churches.
  25. Ellis. The Celtic Revolution.p.135.This has given rise to two schools of thought. Celts were still living east of the Tamar...Athelstan simply drove them beyond the river. Secondly...the Tamar was already a national boundary and that the Cornish lived in Exeter as foreign settlers.
  26. Woods. Dark Ages. p.152. Constantine king of the Scots broke his treaty with Athelstan. Whether he was already plotting against Athelstan we can not say, but he must have refused to pay tribute. Athelstan's response was swift..

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