They gave us the idea of the English nation
From Newcastle Central train station, it’s a short journey on the Metro down the Tyne to Jarrow and the remains of the AngloSaxon monastery that once stood over the tidal lagoon of the Slake.
Founded in AD 685, Jarrow was the sister house to Wearmouth (674) – and, for an extraordinary 50 years, the double monastery transformed European civilisation. It
transmitted key texts in religion, culture, history and science from the lost libraries of Italy. It even popularised the AD dating system now in use worldwide. It was here too that Bede wrote his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, the defining text of the English people – a history of Britain as it looked in AD 731, with its English, Irish, Welsh, Pictish and Latin speakers.
Bede set out to write an ecclesiastical history but in the end it widens out to be “the story of our island and its people”. At the heart of that story was a crucial idea: the gens Anglorum, the ‘English nation’.
A deta detail from a 12th-century manusc manuscript depicts a scribe – probably Bede, who produced ““the th defining text of the English people”