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 The Saxon Centuries: prehistory into history


The six centuries between the departure of the Romans and the Norman Conquest (c.400-1066) saw the gradual emergence of the first written local records, and with them the transition from prehistory to history.


The development of settlements, field systems, kingdoms and shires, manors and local churches, and present-day place-names (see Oxfordshire History: a framework) can be traced from an increasing range of documentary sources:


The number of these early documents is small compared with later periods. Alongside them the archaeological record continues to yield key evidence, particularly in the form of pottery and coins but also metalware, weapons, jewellery, bones, textiles, and the sites of settlements and churches.


Oxfordshire is fortunate to have an excellent example of how archaeological, landscape, place-name and documentary evidence can be combined in local studies. John Blair’s Anglo-Saxon Oxfordshire (1994) is the starting point for anyone investigating this period.


Further Reading and resources

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (D.Whitelock (ed.), English Historical Documents, 1 (1979 edn)

J.Blair, Anglo-Saxon Oxfordshire (1994)

M.Gelling, Place-names of Oxfordshire, 1 and 2 (English Place-names Society, 1953 and 1954)

M.Gelling, Place-names of Berkshire, Parts 1, 2 and 3 (English Place-names Society, 1973, 1974 and 1976). [Part 3 has a detailed discussion of charter boundaries].

M.Gelling, The early charters of the Thames Valley (1979). [Gives details of 49 Oxfordshire charters)

M.Gelling, Signposts to the past. Place-names and the history of England (1997)

M.Gelling and A.Cole, The Landscape of Place-names (2000)

P.H.Sawyer, Anglo-Saxon Charters: an annotated list and bibliography (Royal Historical Society, 1968). [Lists known charters, writs, wills and associated documents].

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