(Under the direction of Professor Michael Enright) Department of History, March 2002.
The purpose of this thesis is to examine the military and military-related economic capabilities of Anglo-Saxons during the migration era (5-6th centuries). This period was a time of crisis for the Roman Empire as "barbarian" peoples crossed into the empire's territory on all fronts. In Britain, Picts, Scots, Saxons, and others were raiding settlements. The Saxon raids would lead to the formation of Anglo-Saxon England. This thesis is a study of these events. Many unresolved issues surround the Anglo-Saxon movements to Britain. Was it a small migration, or a large tribal resettling? The types of ships used are also of great importance. Did they carry masts and sail, or were they simply oared vessels? In order to study these questions, it is necessary to look at all available data. Unfortunately, key aspects of ship characteristics are not known, and therefore sections of this thesis must remain theoretical. Many historical writers have recorded information that will be of use in this study including: De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae by Gildas and Bede's Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum. Germania by Tacitus and the Beowulf poem provide valuable insights into Germanic society. Through the works of these writers and others, as well as through archaeological data, this thesis will explore Germanic society prior to and during Rome's decline. The capabilities, materials, and time involved to build the longship type vessels used in the movement to Britain are all relevant topics. Finally, an overview of Britain its culture and people is necessary in an effort to discern why events transpired in the way that they did. In essence, this thesis looks at three simple questions: (1) Who invaded Britain in the fifth and sixth centuries? (2) What probable vessels were used to cross the North Sea from Europe to Britain? (3) Why would a group of people (large or small) undertake the invasion of Britain? This thesis concludes that the warband or comitatus was the key group making the journey to Britain. Moreover, the invasion was not a massive tribal migration, and the use of oared or sailed vessels was not the key factor of the invasion. The time required to build these ships and the level or organization required to coordinate a tribal operation of this sort did not then exist. Also, similar levels of organization comparable to the warband were in place in Britain as well as in Germanic areas. In the event, however, the Saxons replaced the British as he ruling aristocracy.