West Stow Essay
West Stow is an area in Britain located within modern day Suffolk, which through the mid 5th century to early 7th century CE, housed a small Anglo-Saxon village. The setting for the formation of West Stow, and for Anglo-Saxon Britain in general, begins around 407 CE with the exit of Roman troops from Britain. In this paper, I will provide an overview of the circumstances that led to the Angles and the Saxons invading/migrating to Britain, what they built in West Stow, and whether/how we know what we do about this time period from archaeological findings, or from primary text sources.
To begin, as stated in the introduction, the Roman empire pulled it’s armies stationed in Britain to Gaul and possibly other locations within the empire to defend against the various barbarian invasions occurring in 407 CE. It’s unknown exactly why, but this seems to have lead to an extremely rapid governmental and economic collapse of Roman cities in Britain. After ~407 there is no evidence of new coins being minted, and no evidence of roads, walls, and buildings in the cities being repaired. During this time a few of the Germanic tribes, the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes, began a migration to Britain, possibly due to displacement caused by the migrations and conquests of other tribes.
There are a variety of theories about how the Anglo-Saxons integrated themselves into Britain, but actual evidence about this time period is rather lacking. We know when the Roman government collapsed from the latest dates on coins that have been found buried and lost, and by examining the dirt that has collected on top of the old Roman roads. However despite this evidence it’s unknown whether the Anglo-Saxons conquered Britain, or were to some extent welcomed in as Foederati and the Roman culture was integrated into theirs simply due to lack of contact and maintenance with the empire and of the Roman cities. Whichever the case, by 530 CE, Anglo-Saxons had established a Germanic kingdom in Britain.
Much of what we know about the life and social order of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms comes from primary text sources that have survived of Salic Law . One of the big things from a cultural standpoint is the approximate social order of the Anglo-Saxons, as determined from references to various laws regarding them in the Salic Law. At the top of the order were the Kings in the various kingdoms within Britain, under them were freemen in the king’s service, clergy, regular freemen, freedmen (Freed slaves), and at the bottom, slaves. These texts also give us some idea of the economy and currency,...