Medieval England

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Medieval England
“The Middle Ages”
• Called this because it’s just the period stuck
between the collapse of the Roman Empire
(around 470 AD) and the Renaissance (15th
Century)
• Often seen as having nothing of importance to
offer in terms of advancement in society.
“The Middle Ages”
• Also called “The Dark Ages” because of a
perceived lack of literacy and slow advance of
learning.
• This is an inaccurate assumption.
• While it’s true that the common person was
illiterate, a great deal of knowledge was
preserved in monasteries, particularly in the
British isles.
The Celts
• Prior to Roman colonization, the British isles
were settled by Celtic tribes such as the
Britons, Picts, and Scots
• They spoke various forms of Gaelic
• Tribes often fought amongst themselves for
territory and power
The Celts
• Most tribes were pagan and their religious
leaders were called druids
• Some had been converted to Christianity
under the Romans but the new Christian
theology was often mixed with the older
pagan tradition
The Romans
• When the Romans annexed Britain, they
brought a great deal of stability
• Although they were at times brutal rulers,
Roman governors could easily repel other
groups trying to invade the islands
The Invasions
• After the fall of the Roman Empire, mass
chaos ensued
• Celtic tribes were left virtually powerless to
protect themselves against invaders
• Seafaring warriors from the area of Europe
which is now northern Germany and Denmark
began attacking the Britons
The Invasions
• These tribes (Angles, Saxons, and Jutes) were
successful in pushing the native Britons out of
most of England
• Celtic tribes retreating to the areas around the
edges: Wales, Scotland, and Ireland (which
accounts for differences in language and
culture today)
Anglo-Saxons
• The Anglo-Saxons practiced a different pagan
faith than the Celts.
• Their primary god was named Odin and their
gods myths are similar to those of the Vikings
• Missionaries from Ireland converted many to
Christianity in the 6th century
• But again, in those early years theologies
blend together and overlap
Anglo-Saxon Literature
• With the rise of Christianity in England,
literacy rose again.
• People, especially monks, wrote about
religious subject, mostly in Latin
• Some poetry is written in Old English, the
language of the Anglo-Saxons and was then
copied and preserved by monks
• Anglo-Saxon poetry was originally an oral
tradition
• It would be memorized by

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