20 Anglo Saxon England in the 11th Century

Anglo Saxon England has been seen by some commentators as a bit of a basket case by 1066 – out of date and ready to be conquered. But actually England had its great strengths that would have been the envy of continental monarch, if they’d spent any time thinking about that small, damp island somewhere off the continental coast.  The History of England takes a brief look at the English state in the 11th century

20 Anglo Saxon England in the 11th C


Law, Government, Agriculture – and Feudalism?

Anglo Saxon England was not so very different from continental Europe, in reality. But there were some differences. Mainly these were around a more communal approach to Government. For example, the position of Earl was a non hereditary job title in England; he was a government official. In Normandy, Earl is a hereditary title. The Army is similar too – the Anglo Saxon Army is still recruited as a public army, rather than raised by the Kings’ nobles based on their landholding.

But things had changed since 7th Century. England was moving towards Feudalism; most Thegns held land of their own right, but more held them from a lord in return for military service. And more Coerls had lost their independent land holding than used to be the case, and were therefore less free. A manorial approach to agriculture was much more common – i.e. organised around a village with communal fields, rather than individual farms.

The King’s though had mainly retained his rights – although there was a little devolving of his rights of justice to his nobility. And his power had grown – because now he has the added power of the Church and God’s approval to add to his mystique. English administration was also relatively advanced, so he could be effective – unless he was himself incompetent of course.

Searching for place names

The English Place Name Society is the official expert I guess; now at Nottingham University. There is this delightful site you can use to search for the place name of your choice – the Key to English Place Names. Give it a go!

7 thoughts on “20 Anglo Saxon England in the 11th Century

  1. Listening to the podcast, I had this question: what language(s) were prevalent? Old English, I assume, but there must be bits of French, maybe still Latin, some Scandinavian languages here and there.

  2. Listening to the podcast, I had this question: what language(s) were prevalent? Old English, I assume, but there must be bits of French, maybe still Latin, some Scandinavian languages here and there.
    +1

    1. Sorry Steve – now fixed. They moved I think!! The key seems to have been updated now though – looks prettier. Have fun

  3. Where did you get your 2% number for population enslaved? In my research I haven’t seen anyone with numbers below 10%, and some as high as 38% at the time of the conquest. I am not doing (or seeing) actual calculations of course, so I’d love to know how you came up with yours.
    Thanks!

    1. Hi Drew – sorry to take a while to respond. One of the problems is that it is literally years – 5 I think, since I wrote that episode. So I can’t remember where I got this from. I went back to my notes; I see that I say 25,000 slave, so 2 % but could have been as high as 10%.I went back briefly to the most obvious places I used; one of those (Stenton) didn’t talk numbers; the other (Bartlett) went with the 10% figure most people quote from Domesday, noting also that the number was probably declining, and therefore earlier was probably higher. Sorry, I think my source is probably undiscoverable. I also think that I have to declare that I would now go with 10% rather than the 2%; I maybe even out to edit the file.

  4. That’s no problem! I know I am coming in a little late 🙂 I am loving the podcast btw– it’s great to get a good overview/framework and I appreciate the breaks (like this one) from the political narrative every once in a while.

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