The Age of Bede and Alcuin: Anglo-Saxon Northumbria and Mercia in the 7th and 8th Centuries

Module code: HS3772

The kingdom of Northumbria dominated Britain between the mid-seventh and the mid-eighth centuries in politics, warfare and culture. Its history is told primarily by England's first historian, Bede, whose life in the monastery at Wearmouth-Jarrow culminated in the production of the Ecclesiastical History of the English People. Bede's many writings are complemented by the archaeology and material culture of the Northumbrian renaissance, not least famous manuscripts such as the Lindisfarne Gospels or Codex Amiatinus, or the monumental stone crosses at Bewcastle and Ruthwell. In the eighth century, Northumbrian hegemony started to wane, and in the decades after Bede's death, the midland kingdom of Mercia, led first by Æthelbald, then by Offa, came to dominate Britain, sparring with Charlemagne in Francia and the papacy in Rome. Sculpture from Mercia is a key source alongside the letters of Alcuin, who came from York, conversed with Offa, and taught Charlemagne's children. The relationship between the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms and Francia comes sharply into view.