Britain after the Romans

After the Roman invasion of Britain ended between the 5th and 7th centuries, the dominant ethnic groups of what is now England were the Germanic tribes. While they were migrants with various origins, they gradually merged and developed a shared cultural identity and language as Anglo-Saxons.

There Anglo-Saxons founded small kingdoms that first covered southern and eastern England, and afterwards expanded to the entire English territory.

This period was characterized by a very profound cultural, linguistic and ethnic transformation of Britain. While much of the infrastructure and administrative practices survived the withdrawal of the Romans, the change was otherwise total.

Origins of modern England

This mix of Roman political and economic order and Germanic culture and ethnicity came to define modern England. Germanic culture and languages became dominant. While during Roman times Christianity and pagan religions co-existed, in the post-Roman period Christianity became a dominant religion.

The transformation implied the formation of a shared cultural identity, though the political organization of early Anglo-Saxons was very de-centralized. Southern and eastern Britain was likely divided into small competing kingdoms.

This competition of small kingdoms is believed to have increased militarization of the territory. Smaller kingdoms were often absorbed by larger ones, and the threat of war was always present. There was an incentive to always be prepared to battle.

Era of kingdoms

This political and military situation set the ground for an organization for much of the Middle Ages in England, where the territory was often held by small competing political units.

Finally seven large kingdoms emerged from this period. These kingdoms – Sussex, Kent, Essex, Mercia, East Anglia, Bemicia, and Deira – competed for power for several centuries, the balance of power often shifting.

It was finally the kingdom of Wessex that would unify the kingdoms and rule the territory that is today England in the early 9th century.