The Effects of the Conversion to Christianity on Anglo-Saxon Kingship

  • Emily S J Day

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Philosophy (MPhil)


This thesis covers the change that occurred to kingship within Anglo-Saxon society after the conversion to Christianity which started in 595 Common Era. It uses an interdisciplinary approach to sources and understanding, looking at historical, archaeological and literary primary sources, as well as considering the theological understanding of Christianity at the time, to come to an understanding of what changed, and why and how it did so. In order to achieve this, it first establishes the Anglo-Saxon understanding of the institution of kingship before the concerted conversion of the people in 595 by Pope Gregory the Great. This is done through archaeological remains and the text of Beowulf, due to the lack of any written historical evidence. The second section covers the conversion of Kent and Northumbria, and what this can tell us about kingship at this point, using Bede as the primary historical evidence. It also covers the state of Christianity’s current ideas of kingship as it would have been when during this conversion period, as this helps us develop an understanding of the difference of understanding between the Germanic AngloSaxon ideas of kingship and that of the clergy coming in from the continent and beyond. The last section deals with the aftermath of the conversion process and explores historical, (charters and laws etc.), archaeological (changing settlement patterns), and literary (Beowulf) sources of evidence to reflect upon any changes to the way kingship is enacted in Anglo-Saxon society compared to how it is established in the first section. This change reflects what was also established in the second section and demonstrates the interplay between the Anglo-Saxon kingship ideals and the Christian idea of kingship.

Date of Award23 Jun 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorAd Putter (Supervisor) & Benjamin Pohl (Supervisor)

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