Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
   The most important source for the history of Anglo-Saxon England, especially for the period from the mid-ninth century until the fall of the Anglo-Saxons to William the Conqueror in 1066, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle also provides useful information on the development of the English language. It survives in seven manuscripts, some of which include both Old English and Latin entries, and its accounts are arranged as annals, or year-by-year summaries of events.
   The Chronicle, including both its earliest versions and most complete later versions, covers the history of England and the Anglo-Saxons from the first century b.c. until 1154. Events covered by the Chronicle include Julius Caesar's invasion of England, the Anglo-Saxon invasions, and the deeds of the Anglo-Saxon kings. Although called the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the focus of the annals is the West Saxon kings, with occasional mention of events in Mercia and on the European continent. The first version, which appeared during the reign of Alfred the Great in the late ninth century and was known to Asser, the biographer of Alfred, focuses on the history of the West Saxon kings, beginning with the fifth-century King Cerdic and ending with King Aethelwulf and his sons. Although the work covers a broad span of time, the period that receives the best and fullest treatment is that after 850.
   After the first version, the manuscript tradition divided into several versions, which do not always treat events in the same fashion, some versions of the Chronicle treating events more fully than others. Major events, like Alfred's campaigns against invading Vikings, however, often receive similar coverage in all the versions. The continuations of the Chronicle lasted until 1154, covering the events of the tenth and early eleventh century with little detail but offering more depth for the later eleventh and twelfth century. It provides useful discussion of William's conquest in 1066, and one version offers a brief and bitter summary of events of the year.
   The sources used by the compilers of the Chronicle vary. Works by Jerome and Isidore of Seville were used in the preparation of the early material covered by the annals; also useful for the early period was a Latin translation of the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius. Other sources used for the preparation of the Chronicle were the Liber Pontificalis (Book of the Popes), genealogies, northern and West Saxon annals, Frankish annals, lists of kings and bishops, and, most probably, oral material. The most important source, and one that helped shape the organizational structure of the annals, was Bede's History of the English Church and People.
   See also
 ♦ Whitelock, Dorothy, ed. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1986.

Encyclopedia of Barbarian Europe. 2014.

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