Offa’s Wars (Magill’s Guide to Military History)
Article abstract: At issue: The supremacy of Mercia and control of access to Europe. Result: Mercia became the supreme power in England to the extent that Offa was recognized as “king of the English”.
It took Offa several years to bring Mercia’s internal affairs under his control following the murder of Æthelbald in 757 and the ensuing civil war. Evidence suggests Offa was a cautious man and an opportunist who used military strength when all else failed, but who nevertheless ruled like a despot once in command. At the start of his reign, with his efforts focused inward, the network of control developed by Æthelbald, which had subjugated most other kingdoms in England, had weakened. Wessex and Kent regained most of their autonomy, and even the Mercian subkingdoms of Hwicce and Lindsey gained some independence. The Welsh, especially in Powys, recognized Mercia’s weakness and recovered territory lost to Æthelbald—there was early conflict at Hereford (760).
Once in control of his internal affairs, Offa’s first external actions were generally peaceful, building alliances and working with his neighbors. Although Mercia was not landlocked, it was important to Offa to have control over routes to the Continent via the Thames and the southern and eastern ports. He already had the East Saxon and East Anglian kingdoms under his thumb. In 764, he took advantage of political unrest in Kent to...
(The entire section is 672 words.)
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