Behind the shield-wall: The experience of combat in late Anglo-Saxon England
Jordan M. Poss
Master’s Thesis, Clemson University, 2010
Most studies of the Anglo-Saxon military examine its structural ties to economic and social structures, rarely investigating Anglo-Saxon battle itself. This paper asks the question “What was it like to have been in battle with the Anglo-Saxon army?” After introducing the topic in a study of the 991 Battle of Maldon and describing the development of the Anglo-Saxon military system between the fifth and eleventh centuries, this paper relies on case studies of the most thoroughly-documented Anglo-Saxon battles, those of 1066–Fulford Gate, Stamford Bridge, and Hastings–to reconstruct the conditions of Anglo-Saxon combat and their effects on the men who fought in them. Based on these reconstructions, the study asks the further question of what sustained men through such terrible combat. These case studies not only provide a ground-level view of important military events but suggest the depths to which ideas of lordship and personal loyalty permeated Anglo-Saxon society.