History of Anglo Saxon Charters

The History Of Anglo-Saxon Charters

The history of Anglo-Saxon charters is a fascinating one. In terms of looking at how life was defined during this early medieval period in England, charters are certainly one of those elements that allowed society to progress and endure.


Simply put, Anglo-Saxon charters were designed to function as legal documents of the era. These documents often came in the form of writs, diplomas, and wills. Although writs, diplomas, and wills varied in execution and particulars, all of them were more or less meant to dictate certain rights and privileges. Generally speaking, charters dealt in granting property to groups or individuals. Many surviving charters involve the king in some form or fashion.


This is a basic overview of Anglo-Saxon charters and Anglo-Saxon charter types. From this point, you can begin to look at the history of these charters.


Anglo-Saxon Charter History

Anglo-Saxon charter history can also be seen as a history of the overall time period. The various transactions that took place between people of privilege and other groups/individuals are the kind of transactions that shaped nations and dictated public behavior. This isn’t always the case, but there are certainly examples of charters that highlight this approach to charter history.


In terms of actual Anglo-Saxon charter history, there are several items of note to consider:


  • The earliest charters known to have existed began to appear around the seventh century. It is also worth noting that these charters were written in Latin. It is also interesting to keep in mind that the earliest known charters were penned in monastic scriptoria.
  • Towards the 9th century, a move was made towards establishing a vernacular literacy. This certainly influenced the way charters were written. Eventually, charters moved from being written in Latin, to being written in what is now known as Old English.
  • A great many royal charters were created in the vernacular during the reign of Edward the Confessor. These charters were extremely different from the Latin charters that were written during earlier times.
  • As charters became increasingly important in matters involving such areas as land and title rights, forgeries became more and more common. Those who now study charters to determine their legitimacy are known as diplomatics.
  • In this day and age, only a select number of these documents still exist. However, the ones that are indeed still around offer a significant chapter in medieval English history.


There are a number of different online and other resources to help you take your studies even further.