Early Britain eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 210 pages of information about Early Britain.



In the long period of three and a-half centuries which had elapsed between the Jutish conquest of Kent and the establishment of the West Saxon over-lordship, the politics of Britain had been wholly insular.  The island had been brought back by Augustine and his successors into ecclesiastical, commercial, and literary union with the continent:  but no foreign war or invasion had ever broken the monotony of murdering the Welsh and harrying the surrounding English.  The isolation of England was complete.  Ship-building was almost an obsolete art:  and the small trade which still centred in London seems to have been mainly carried on in Frisian bottoms; for the Low Dutch of the continent still retained the seafaring habits which those of England had forgotten.  But a new enemy was now beginning to appear in northern Europe—­the Scandinavians.  The history of the great wicking movement forms the subject of a separate volume in this series:  but the manner in which the English met it will demand a brief treatment here.  Some outline of the bare facts, however, must first be premised.

As early as 789, during the reign of Offa in Mercia, “three ships of Northmen from Haeretha land” came on shore in Wessex.  “Then the reeve rode against them, and would have driven them to the king’s town, for he wist not what they were:  and there men slew him.  Those were the first ships of Danish men that ever sought English kin’s land.”  In 795, “the harrying of heathen men wretchedly destroyed God’s church at Lindisfarne isle, through rapine and manslaughter.”  In the succeeding year, “the heathen harried among the Northumbrians, and plundered Ecgberht’s monastery at Wearmouth.”  In 832, “heathen men ravaged Sheppey”; and a year later, “King Ecgberht fought against the crews of thirty-five ships at Charmouth, and there was muckle slaughter made, and the Danes held the battle-field."[1] In 835, another host came to the West Welsh (now almost reduced to the peninsula of Cornwall):  and the Welsh readily joined them against their West Saxon over-lord.  Ecgberht met the united hosts at Hengestesdun and put them both to flight.  It was his last success.  In the succeeding year he died, and the kingdom descended to his weak son, AEthelwulf.  His second son, AEthelstan, was placed over Kent, Essex, Surrey, and Sussex, as under-king.

 [1] This entry in the Chronicle, however, is probably
     erroneous, as an exactly similar one occurs under AEthelwulf,
     seven years later.

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Early Britain from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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