The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles.

  • The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles are a collection of historical records recounting the history of the Anglo-Saxons. They were mostly written in the 9th century, during the reign of King Alfred the Great.

  • They cover different subjects, including farming and agriculture, the economy, laws of the time, and  wars and battles. The chronicles also include several long poems.
  • One poem, the Battle of Brunanburh, features in four of the surviving chronicles. It tells the story of a 10th century battle between Saxons, Scots and Vikings.
  • The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles are the most important and complete account of Britain between the 1st and 12th centuries. They also provide information on the development of the English language.
  • The chronicles are written in Old English, the oldest form of the English language. It is derived from dialects spoken by tribes in northern Europe and was brought to Britain by 5th century settlers.

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

  • One entry in the Chronicles recounts one of the most famous events in British history, the Battle of Hastings in 1066. King Harold died at the battle, which marked the end of Anglo-Saxon rule.
  • Today, nine of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle manuscripts survive, yet none of them are the original version. Most are in the British Library in London, although one is in Oxford’s Bodleian Library, and one in Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.
  • The Winchester Chronicle is the oldest of the Anglo-Saxon chronicles. It includes information about Alfred the Great, as well as the laws of Alfred, a guide to the rules and regulations of the period.
  • Alfred encouraged the use of English during his reign, and realized the importance of culture and education. The Winchester Chronicle may have been a result of his efforts to introduce these changes.
  • The chronicles were all written in different places and at different times, and can sometimes be seen as inaccurate. In some places, names and dates are not recorded accurately, and some of the passages are considered to be more legend than fact.

What next? Learn more about the Anglo-Saxons by visiting our Anglo-Saxons resources page.

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