Kate Monk's Onomastikon

(Dictionary of Names)

Early English History

After the Romans left, Britain was open to invasion by the various Germanic peoples from the Baltic area who had already been making raids on the 'Saxon Shore' in the days of the Empire. Invasions started around 400 AD.

The Saxons were a Germanic tribe from the Danish peninsula and northern Germany. Their territories originally reached as far as the Rhine but Saxony was conquered by Charlemagne in 792. Under pressure from the Franks, they migrated to various parts of Europe including Britain and pursued piracy in the North Sea and English Channel. They settled in Essex, Sussex and Wessex.

The Jutes were a Germanic people who may have originated in the Rhineland, rather than Jutland in Denmark, and later settled in Frankish territory. In around 450 AD, they occupied Kent under Hengist and Horsa and conquered the isle of Wight and the Hampshire coast in the early C6th.

The Angles came from the German/Danish border area, now Schleswig-Holstein and may have been united with the Saxons before invading Britain. They settled largely in East Anglia, Mercia and Northumbria.

By the end of the C6th, the tribal settlements had become seven kingdoms (the Heptarchy) and by the first decade of the C7th, Northumbria was dominant with its king bearing the titles of Rex Anglorum and being accepted as the bretwalda or overlord of the others. Although the tendency is to think of the people that the Normans conquered as 'The Saxons', they were actually a mixture of the various groups and the language now known as Old English, was a combination of several Germanic tongues which developed into Middle English after the second Germanic influx, that of the Norsemen. This took place in several stages, with the Danes arriving by 800 AD and the Norwegians in the north-west by about 900 AD. The third wave of Germanic invasion was that of the Normans. They had only been in France for a few generations but their language and naming system were already heavily influenced, with many old Germanic names taking on 'Normanised' forms.

The kingdoms were eventually united under the kings of Wessex. During the reign of King Alfred in the C9th, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle was begun. Written by monks, it provides a record of history from the Roman invasion to 1154 and an illustration of the development of Old English prose.

This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.

Copies may be made for personal use only.

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