The Anglo-Saxons at War

The Anglo-Saxons at War

by Paul Hill


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In the time of the great Anglo-Saxon kings like Alfred and Athelstan, Æthelred and Edmund Ironside, what was warfare really like – how were the armies organized, how and why did they fight, how were the warriors armed and trained, and what was the Anglo-Saxon experience of war? As Paul Hill demonstrates in this compelling new study, documentary records and the growing body of archaeological evidence allows these questions to be answered with more authority than ever before. His broad, detailed and graphic account of the conduct of war in the Anglo-Saxon world in the unstable, violent centuries before the Norman Conquest will be illuminating reading for anyone who wants to learn about this key stage of medieval history.

The role of violence and war in Anglo-Saxon society is explored, in particular the parts played by the king and the noblemen, and the means by which, in times of danger, the men of the fyrd were summoned to fight. The controversial subject of the Anglo-Saxon use of cavalry is also explored. Land and naval warfare are central sections of Paul Hill’s book, but he also covers the politics and diplomacy of warfare – the conduct of negotiations, the taking of hostages and the use of treachery.

The weapons and armor of the Anglo-Saxons are described – the spears, the scramsaxes, axes, bows, swords, helmets, shields and mail that were employed in the close-quarter fighting of the day. Among the most valuable sections of the study are those dealing, in vivid detail, with actual experience of battle and siege – with the brutal reality of combat as it is revealed by campaigns against the Danes, in the battles of Ashdown, Maldon and Stamford Bridge, and sieges at Reading and Rochester.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781848843691
Publisher: Pen and Sword
Publication date: 08/02/2012
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 1,165,162
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Paul Hill, formerly curator of Kingston Upon Thames Museum in Surrey, is well known as a lecturer, author and expert on Anglo-Saxon and Norman history and military archaeology, and he has written several books on these subjects, among them The Age of Athelstan: Britain's Forgotten History, The Viking Wars of Alfred the Great and The Anglo-Saxons at War 800-1066.

Table of Contents

Plates, Figures, Maps and Tables vii

Preface ix

Prologue 1

Introduction - A Survey of the Evidence 3

1 Warfare, Violence and Society 8

Why Go to War? 8

Where Were Wars Fought? 11

The Training of the Anglo-Saxon Warrior 14

Injury, Death and Exile - the Personal Impact of War 17

Feuding 21

Hostages, Oaths, Treaties and Treachery 24

2 Military Organisation 39

Recruitment and Obligation 39

The Size and Structure of Armies 45

Heriots 48

Logistics and Communication 51

The Question of Cavalry 56

Tributes, Gelds and Mercenaries 63

Naval Warfare 66

3 Strategy and Tactics 77

Ravaging, Harrying and the Use of the Landscape 77

Descriptions of the Armies in Action 79

Stratagems and Ruses 83

4 Fortifications and Earthworks 86

Early Earthworks and Fortifications 86

The Burhs of Anglo-Saxon England 88

Private Fortifications, Strongholds and Castles 93

5 Campaigns, Battles and Sieges 95

Campaigns 95

Battles 114

Sieges 134

6 Weapons, Armour and Accessories 147

Weapons 147

Armour and Protection 168

Accessories 184

Conclusion 193

Appendix: Rulers of the English, c. 871-1066 196

Bibliography 199

Index 204

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