The fifth century is an especially obscure period. The early Germanic population, mostly invaders but also some descendants of people brought in as mercenaries and settlers in the late Roman period, left no written record. Bede (672/3–735), the first English historian, and other later written sources provide a different account from the archaeological evidence. The latter, anyway, has to be used with care because of the difficulty of interpreting evidence and its uneven spread, reflecting, in part, the varied pattern of excavation and fieldwork activity. It is far from clear how far continuity or discontinuity should be stressed between Roman and post-Roman Britain, and difficult to distinguish between the consequences of the end to imperial Roman rule and that of the invaders who brought Germanisation. In particular, it is unclear how far there were large-scale movements of people or invasions by smaller warrior groups; there is an active debate on this. It was traditionally thought, on the basis of language and place-names, that there had been a mass migration. In the 1970s and 1980s, in contrast, it was fashionable to argue for a small elite invasion. Now, DNA analysis is leading to a revival of the hypothesis of a mass-migration.
Swipe to navigate through the chapters of this book
Please log in to get access to this content
To get access to this content you need the following product:
- British, English and Scandinavians, AD 400–1066
- Macmillan Education UK
- Sequence number
- Chapter number