Rædwald of East Anglia - Sources


Few sources have survived that were written by the Anglo-Saxons in England and East Anglia has even less documentary evidence than most of the kingdoms that existed at that time. The historian Barbara Yorke has suggested that the reason for the paucity of East Anglian sources was almost certainly the Viking expansion in the 9th century and that the monks and scribes of East Anglia produced as much work as those living in other parts of England. The devastation in East Anglia caused by the Vikings is thought to have destroyed all the books and charters that may have been kept there.

Rædwald is the first king of the East Angles of whom more than a name is known. No details of his life before his accession are known. The earliest and most substantial source for Rædwald is the Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (Ecclesiastical History of the English People), completed in 731 by Bede, a Northumbrian monk. Bede placed Rædwald's reign between the advent of the Gregorian mission to Kent in 597 and the marriage and conversion of Edwin of Northumbria during 625–26.

Later mediaeval chroniclers, such as Roger of Wendover, gave some information about East Anglian events, but Yorke suggests that the annalistic format used forced these writers to guess the dates of the key events they recorded. Such later sources are therefore treated with caution. The Anglian collection, which dates from the late 8th century, contains an East Anglian genealogical tally, but Rædwald is not included in it. Rædwald is however referred to in the 8th century Vita of St Gregory the Great, written by a member of the religious community at Whitby. The Battle of the River Idle, in which Rædwald and his forces defeated the Northumbrians, is described in the 12th century Historia Anglorum, written by Henry of Huntingdon.

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