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‘Building Anglo-Saxon England’

John Blair

Princeton University Press

Drawing on the latest archaeological discoveries to present a reappraisal of the Anglo-Saxon built environment, John Blair explains the origins of towns, manor houses, and castles in a completely new way, casting light on the important functions of buildings and settlements in people’s lives during the age of the Venerable Bede and King Alfred.

‘Building Anglo-Saxon England’ demonstrates how recent excavations enable us to grasp for the first time the diversity of the Anglo-Saxon built environment. Blair identifies a zone of eastern England with access to the North Sea whose economy, prosperity, and timber buildings had more in common with the Low Countries and Scandinavia than the rest of England. The origins of villages and their field systems emerge with a new clarity, as does the organisation of the kingdom of Mercia, which dominated central England for two centuries. The book explores how the natural landscape was modified for human activity, and how settlements were laid out with geometrical precision by specialist surveyors. The book also shows how the Anglo-Saxon love of elegant and intricate decoration is reflected in the construction of the living environment, which in some ways was more sophisticated than it would become after the Norman Conquest.

About the author

John Blair is Professor of Medieval History and Archaeology at the University of Oxford.


  • A guide to a world now almost utterly lost and wholly unrecognisable. Drawing on decades of research and richly illustrated, Blair’s book provides us with a panoramic view and a startling new interpretation of the Anglo-Saxon world

Wolfson History Prize judges