The Fall of Saxon England
© 1975 Richard Humble
History never rests. In the middle of the first millennium, the great tide of the Roman Empire began at last to recede. Its legions stationed in distant reaches of the realm, like those in Britain, were removed to better protect the heart of Rome from its many enemies. The Britons were left to their own devices, and into the vacuum left by Rome swept a multitude of European immigrants: Angles, Saxons, Picts, and Jutes. Latin was an unknown tongue to them, but they came, they saw, and they conquered. Establishing their own kingdoms the tribes reigned supreme for a few centuries — but then came the Vikings. Beginning in the late 8th century, the Saxon lands became the object of attention of the Danes, and for two centuries invaders, raiders, and aggressive settlers would pummel the island. Isolated raids gave way to massive armies that broke several of the Saxon kingdoms, while the rest fell under the lead of one man — Alfred the Great — creating a patchy but unified English resistance. His brilliant successes would be undermined by less able successors, however, pitted against wilier foes. The Fall of Saxon England is a blow-by-blow account of the Viking siege of England, ending with the invasion of William the Bastard. Hailing from Normandy, itself a Viking-taken area of France, 1066 put an end to Saxon self-rule. This storied military and political history of an England between Rome and Normandy has a sad end, but many of the actors are brilliant. Of special interest is a section on King Arthur, who the author speculates might have been inspired by Ambrosius Aurelianus. Highly readable, Humble delivers an education into how the great Saxon kingdoms, later earldoms, emerged and evolved until the Norman conquest.