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The annals of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle are fundamental to the study of the language, literature, and culture of the Anglo-Saxon period. Ranging from the ninth to the twelfth century, its five primary manuscripts offer a virtually contemporary history of Anglo-Saxon England, contribute to the body of Old English prose and poetic texts, and enable scholars to document how the Old English language changed.
In Families of the King, Alice Sheppard explicitly addresses the larger interpretive question of how the manuscripts function as history. She shows that what has been read as a series of disparate entries and peculiar juxtapositions is in fact a compelling articulation of collective identity and a coherent approach to writing the secular history of invasion, conquest, and settlement. Sheppard argues that, in writing about the king's performance of his lordship obligations, the annalists transform literary representations of a political ethos into an identifying culture for the Anglo-Saxon nobles and those who conquered them.