ORIGINAL INTRODUCTION TO INGRAM'S EDITION 
England may boast of two substantial monuments of its early history; to either of which it would not be easy to find a parallel in any nation, ancient or modern. These are, the Record of Doomsday (1) and the "Saxon Chronicle" (2). The former, which is little more than a statistical survey, but contains the most authentic information relative to the descent of property and the comparative importance of the different parts of the kingdom at a very interesting period, the wisdom and liberality of the British Parliament long since deemed worthy of being printed (3) among the Public Records, by Commissioners appointed for that purpose. The other work, though not treated with absolute neglect, has not received that degree of attention which every person who feels an interest in the events and transactions of former times would naturally expect. In the first place, it has never been printed entire, from a collation of all the MSS. But of the extent of the two former editions, compared with the present, the reader may form some idea, when he is told that Professor Wheloc's "Chronologia Anglo-Saxonica", which was the first attempt (4) of the kind, published at Cambridge in 1644, is comprised in less than 62 folio pages, exclusive of the Latin appendix. The improved edition by Edmund Gibson, afterwards Bishop of London, printed at Oxford in 1692, exhibits nearly four times the quantity of the former; but is very far from being the entire (5) chronicle, as the editor considered it. The text of the present edition, it was found, could not be compressed within a shorter compass than 374 pages, though the editor has suppressed many notes and illustrations, which may be thought necessary to the general reader. Some variations in the MSS. may also still remain unnoticed; partly because they were considered of little importance, and partly from an apprehension, lest the commentary, as it sometimes happens, should seem an unwieldy burthen, rather than a necessary appendage, to the text. Indeed, till the editor had made some progress in the work, he could not have imagined that so many original and authentic materials of our history still remained unpublished.
To those who are unacquainted with this monument of our national antiquities, two questions appear requisite to be answered: -- "What does it contain?" and, "By whom was it written?" The indulgence of the critical antiquary is solicited, whilst we endeavour to answer, in some degree, each of these questions.
To the first question we answer, that the "Saxon Chronicle" contains the original and authentic testimony of contemporary writers to the most important transactions of our forefathers, both by sea and land, from their first arrival in this country to the year 1154. Were we to descend to particulars, it would require a volume to discuss the great variety of subjects which it embraces. Suffice it to say, that every reader will here find many interesting facts relative to our architecture, our agriculture, our coinage, our commerce, our naval and military glory, our laws, our liberty, and our religion. In this edition, also, will be found numerous specimens of Saxon poetry, never before printed, which might form the ground-work of an introductory volume to Warton's elaborate annals of English Poetry. Philosophically considered, this ancient record is the second great phenomenon in the history of mankind. For, if we except the sacred annals of the Jews, contained in the several books of the Old Testament, there is no other work extant, ancient or modern, which exhibits at one view a regular and chronological panorama of a PEOPLE, described in rapid succession by different writers, through so many ages, in their own vernacular LANGUAGE. Hence it may safely be considered, nor only as the primaeval source from which all subsequent historians of English affairs have principally derived their materials, and consequently the criterion by which they are to be judged, but also as the faithful depository of our national idiom; affording, at the same time, to the scientific investigator of the human mind a very interesting and extraordinary example of the changes incident to a language, as well as to a nation, in its progress from rudeness to refinement.
But that the reader may more clearly see how much we are indebted to the "Saxon Chronicle", it will be necessary to examine what is contained in other sources of our history, prior to the accession of Henry II., the period wherein this invaluable record terminates.
The most ancient historian of our own island, whose work has been preserved, is Gildas, who flourished in the latter part of the sixth century. British antiquaries of the present day will doubtless forgive me, if I leave in their original obscurity the prophecies of Merlin, and the exploits of King Arthur, with all the Knights of the Round Table, as scarcely coming within the verge of history. Notwithstanding, also, the authority of Bale, and of the writers whom he follows, I cannot persuade myself to rank Joseph of Arimathea, Arviragus, and Bonduca, or even the Emperor Constantine himself, among the illustrious writers of Great Britain. I begin, therefore, with Gildas; because, though he did not compile a regular history of the island, he has left us, amidst a cumbrous mass of pompous rhapsody and querulous declamation some curious descriptions of the character and manners of the inhabitants; not only the Britons and Saxons, but the Picts and Scots (6). There are also some parts of his work, almost literally transcribed by Bede, which confirm the brief statements of the "Saxon Chronicle" (7). But there is, throughout, such a want of precision and simplicity, such a barrenness of facts amidst a multiplicity of words, such a scantiness of names of places and persons, of dates, and other circumstances, that we are obliged to have recourse to the Saxon Annals, or to Venerable Bede, to supply the absence of those two great lights of history -- Chronology and Topography.
By Dr Miles RussellThe chapters in this volume, each written by a leading scholar of the period, analyse in turn the different nationalities and kingdoms that existed in the British Isles from the end of the Roman empire to the coming of the Vikings, the process of conversion to Christianity, the development of art and of a written culture, and the interaction between this written culture and the societies of the day. Available from: