Books

There are many books about Anglo-Saxon England available in online bookshops. When choosing books, consider:

  1. Who is the book written for? I prefer books written for general interest readers and university students. Books written for specialists tend to go over my head.
  2. Does the author have a record of working with other early medieval specialists? I like to see that the author publishes in places where their work is peer reviewed.

Read on for reviews of a range of books on Anglo-Saxon England. Please note that there are no sponsored reviews on this page.

Old English course books

Learn Old English with Leofwin by Matt Love

Remember the modern language coursebooks we used as teenagers? This is laid out in the same way with stories, cartoons and simple exercises. Audio to go with the book is available for free on the publisher’s website. 10/10 for accessibility.

Complete Old English by Mark Atherton

With this book you can teach yourself to read texts in Old English. Atherton structures each chapter around original Old English texts and introductions to grammar points. There is also free audio on the publisher’s website. Choose this course if you are serious about reading original material in Old English.

Introduction to Old English by Peter S. Baker

This university-level book has over 200 original Old English texts and lots of explanation of the key features of Old English grammar. It’s above my learning level at the moment. I imagine that it’s a book that confident readers will want to keep with them as a reference guide while they read Old English literature. It’s probably a good book for teachers of Old English too.

Pagans and Christians in Anglo-Saxon England

Heathen Gods in Old English Literature by Richard North

This scholarly book is an easier read than Alaric Hall’s (see below) but only just. North uses literature to closely examine Anglo-Saxon ideas about the pagan gods. North gives some particularly interesting insights into Anglo-Saxon animism. This is a book worth rereading three or four times to extract all the juice.

The Christianization of the Anglo-Saxons c.597-c.700 by Marilyn Dunn

We know a lot about Anglo-Saxon Christianity but not so much about Anglo-Saxon paganism. This can sometimes leave us with the impression that England was spiritually blank before the Christians arrived. Dunn writes very accessibly about what is known about Anglo-Saxon paganism.

Trees in the Religions of Early Medieval England by Michael D.J. Bintley

After reading this book you’ll never look at tall crosses the same way again. Bintley writes about how trees were a constant in Anglo-Saxon spirituality, whether Christian or pagan. Understanding how things of pagan importance survived in the Church is a useful exercise in picturing early medieval spirituality in full colour.

Elves in Anglo-Saxon England: Matters of Belief, Health, Gender and Identity by Alaric Hall

This is a good book for academics with expertise in early medieval English and Scandinavian culture. I’m not one of those. I’ve read it once and feel that I have not understood much! However, I was interested to read about how male elves were perceived to be feminine. This is definitely a book to return to.

Every day life in Anglo-Saxon Society

Daily Life in Anglo-Saxon England by Sally Crawford

This is a great book for anyone who wants to get a grip on the daily experience of ordinary people. It covers nitty gritty subjects such as food and drink, trade and travel, and health and sickness.

The Moral Economy of the Countryside: Anglo-Saxon to Anglo-Norman England by Rosamond Faith

This very accessible academic read is for anyone with an interest in early medieval social relationships. The author looks at issues such as community cooperation, the responsibilities of lordship, hospitality, honour and respect. If you know someone who writes historical fiction set in Anglo-Saxon England, buy them this book! It will help them to get inside their characters’ worldview.

Building Anglo-Saxon England by John Blair

Blair’s book is another must buy for historical novelists. Written in an accessible style, this weighty study covers built environments in Anglo-Saxon England. This book will help historical fiction writers in imagine what it was like to be in early medieval England. So far this is the best book I’ve bought. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 Ten gold stars!

Visual art

Anglo-Saxon Art by Leslie Webster

This illustrated survey is a must buy for anyone who really wants to appreciate the intellectual life of the Anglo-Saxon world. It shows that the idea of a Dark Ages is nonsense. Thanks to this book I now understand that Anglo-Saxon art is complex, intelligent and influenced by art from across Europe.

General introductions

The Anglo-Saxon Age: a very short introduction by John Blair

This very short book provides a general overview of the Anglo-Saxon centuries. It will help you to get a fix on the major events of the period, including the first settlements, the conversion to Christianity and the Viking invasion.