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West European Studies Essay


The three texts delve into the Anglo Saxon period in detail. Bede’s text is considered one of the most insightful texts during this period, with its focus on the religious issues of the day.

The text gives an insight of the spread of Christianity in England, a factor that eliminated pagan practices in the region. (Bede, Eddius and Farmer 21).

Bede was motivated by the desire of the English to understand their history and the achievements of their past heroes. Since England had been newly formed, Bede’s writings got a ready audience anxious to hear about the development of Christianity during the Anglo Saxon era.

The audiences were also impressed by Bede’s demonstration of the harmony in England despite the Kingdoms that existed during the time of the penning of the text.

His work juggled written text with relevant oral tradition and other literacy elements such as anecdotes (Bede, Eddius and Farmer 16).

King Harald’s text gives a compelling account of the triumphs of King Harald as he moved his army across Europe through Russia and eventually to England. The author wanted to give an insight into history, as contrasted to keeping a historical record.

His main motivating factor is to give an insight into history and not necessarily to keep a historical timeline. King Harald’s saga’s original form follows that of other texts that fall within the Heimskringla which is a historical narrative of Norwegian rulers (Snorri, Magnusson and Hermann 54).

Geoffrey Chauser in his book sought to discuss the history of the high middle ages and his motivation arose from a desire to narrate the decisive years that led to Britain’s modern history.

In achieving this, Chaucer was well aware of the interest that his work would generate (Chauser and Malcolmson, 45).

There were major transformations in England between the period 1000 and 1300. These transformations centered on the social-political and economic spheres.

Among the political changes that took place during this period was the gradual administrative movement that eventually resulted in the formation of the Great Council (Hakluyt and David 78).

The Witan Council existed in England in the 9th century, during which period England was ruled by tribes under the Anglo-Saxon group. The Witan was the brainchild of King Alfred and its main role in governance was to advise the king.

The king relied on this council of elders to make major decisions that bordered on issues such as the making of laws, war and distribution of land. So important was the Witan that the king could not make a major decision before seeking its counsel.

The council also had the responsibility of approving a new king during succession. The Witan had no definite composition and the number of members present heavily depended on the gravity of the matters being discussed or the function being conducted by the king. For example, religious ceremonies experienced a high number of Witan members.

The period between 1066-1154 witnessed the setting up of a central authority in England and the elimination of the feudal system that had been practiced before. This administrative change was a result of the conquest of England by the Normans.

In the place of the feudal system, the Normans, under king William established a monarchial rule (Loyn 34). However, the role of the Witans continued being paramount in this new administrative dispensation with matters such as taxation and legislation requiring their input.

It was also looked upon in matters dealing with the dispensation of justice. At this point, the Witan began being referred to as the ‘Great Council’. The rule of King William was the beginning of the reign of the Plantagenet (Lehmberg 67).

King Williams sought to extend his powers to the church and he required the bishops to participate in military activities in defense of their territories.

Although he allowed them to retain their courts, they could not lodge appeals with the pope without his consultation. The orders of the Pope could also not be implemented in England unless the king was consulted (Brooke 122).

The rule of the Plantagenet continued over the period of king Henry 1 and king Henry 11. An era of chaos ensued in the course of this period, and with the chaos dominating the kingdom, the role of the nobles grew dramatically.

The later oppressive rule of King John led to the signing of the Magna Carta, which was an agreement forced on him by the barons that he will observe all privileges accorded to the nobility.

One of the most important aspects of the Magna Carta was the supremacy of the law, and it would form an important basis for British history (Brooke 127).

The rise of the British parliament would happen after the expansion of the great council. The Magna Carta was followed by the rise of the British parliament, with an expanded Great Council (Huscroft 12).

Its role grew powerful between 1272-1307. King Henry III was the ruler at this time. Overtime, the role of parliament powers extended even further as it began playing a greater role in financial and legislative matters. In later years, its role would increase significantly and form the foundation of British democracy.

Works Cited

Bede, J. F. Webb, Eddius Stephanus, & David Hugh Farmer. The Age of Bede. Middlesex, England: Penguin.1983. Print.

Brooke, Christopher Nugent Lawrence The Saxon & Norman kings. London: Batsford. 1963. Print.

Chauser, Geoffrey and Anne Malcolmson. A taste of Chaucer; selections from the Canterbury tales. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1964. Print.

Hakluyt, Richard, Richard David. Hakluyt’s voyages. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin company. 1929. Print.

Huscroft, Richard. Ruling England, 1042-1217. Harlow: Pearson, 2005. Print.

Lehmberg, Stanford E. A history of the peoples of the British Isles. From Prehistoric times to 1688, New York: Routledge, 2002. Print.

Loyn, Henry Royston The Norman Conquest. New York: Hutchinson, 1965. Print.

Magnusson, Mangus and Hermann Palsson. King Harald’s Saga: Harald Hardradi of Norway. From Snorri Sturluson’s “Heimskringla”. Baltimore: Penguin Books. The Peoples of the British Isles: 1966. Print.

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