Animation showing where Saxons, Angles and Iutis would have settled themselves in Britain according to Bede’s “Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum” (I,15). Image elaborated from Google Earth.

Bede clearly connects the groups of people who were inhabiting Britain during his time to the groups who came from overseas.

However, other written sources and archaeological data suggest that there was more complexity between the 5th and 7th centuries CE. Some fifth-century sunken-floored buildings in Britain are built in the same way as continental examples, indicating that they were brought over by those who had moved to the island. However, archaeological evidence suggests that political hierarchies didn’t develop until the late 6th century, suggesting it wasn’t elites who brought the building style over Another document called ‘The Tribal Hidage’ separates those living south of the Humber into 34 groups rather than 5.

Bede’s writing gives us an insight into how the narratives around Britain’s Early Medieval settlers changed over time, as they slowly came together to form unified political groups.

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