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The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England 1066-1901: Remembering, Forgetting, Deciphering, and Renewing the Past

ISBN: 978-1-118-94332-8
448 pages
September 2015
The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England 1066-1901: Remembering, Forgetting, Deciphering, and Renewing the Past (1118943325) cover image


  • The Idea of Anglo Saxon England, 1066-1901 presents the first systematic review of the ways in which Anglo-Saxon studies have evolved from their beginnings to the twentieth century
  • Tells the story of how the idea of Anglo-Saxon England evolved from the Anglo-Saxons themselves to the Victorians, serving as a myth of origins for the English people, their language, and some of their most cherished institutions
  • Combines original research with established scholarship to reveal how current conceptions of English identity might be very different if it were not for the discovery – and invention – of the Anglo-Saxon past
  • Reveals how documents dating from the Anglo-Saxon era have greatly influenced modern attitudes toward nationhood, race, religious practice, and constitutional liberties
  • Includes more than fifty images of manuscripts, early printed books, paintings, sculptures, and major historians of the era
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Table of Contents

List of Vignettes vi

Preface and Acknowledgements vii

Abbreviations xiii

List of Figures xv

1 The Impact of the Norman Conquest 1

2 The Discovery of Anglo ]Saxon England in Tudor Times 49

3 British Antiquaries and the Anglo ]Saxon Past 77

4 The Founding of a Discipline 1600–1700 109

5 A Period of Consolidation 1700–1800 147

6 The Romantics and the Discovery of Old English Verse 186

7 The Triumph of Philology 220

8 Old English Studies in North America 265

9 Anglo ]Saxon England and the Empire 302

Afterword 378

Some Landmark Publications 381

Works Cited 395

Index 415

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Author Information

John D. Niles is Professor Emeritus of Humanities at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Professor Emeritus of English at the University of California, Berkeley, and a Life Member of Clare Hall, Cambridge. A past president of the International Society of Anglo-Saxonists, he is the author or editor of a dozen books on Old English literature and related topics, including Beowulf: The Poem and Its Tradition (1983) and Homo Narrans: The Poetics and Anthropology of Oral Literature (1997).

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"From the 9th century to 1901, John D. Niles here constructs a meticulously detailed, illuminating, and sometimes amusing history of the complex notion of Anglo-Saxon England.  The book is as authoritative and compelling as Niles’s many other contributions to Anglo-Saxon studies and—just like those—should be read by everyone in the field." Robert E Bjork, Arizona State University

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