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Fact 1: Throughout history England has been invaded by lots of different nations

England was a country that was invaded by lots of different nations throughout history. Stronger nations had been invading them for thousands of years. One of the most famous invasions was by the Romans.

Roman invaders!

Once the Romans ended their invasion of England in 401 AD and returned back to Italy, the Anglo-Saxons settled in England and began their rule over the country. By the time the Vikings began their invasions, the English had almost become used to being invaded!

The Vikings were known for carrying out raids on other countries. They would sail to other countries on big boats, and then raid towns for gold, silver, cattle and slaves. They would then take everything they found back to their home in Scandinavia. In the late 8th century they began journeying across the sea to England…

Fact 2: The Vikings had become known for raids and invasions

During the mid 700s the Vikings had become known for their raids and invasions of other countries. Some of the countries they had invaded include:

  • Ireland
  • France
  • Spain
  • Italy

Some Vikings even made it to Greenland, and some evidence suggests others travelled all the way to America!

A Map of the Viking Invasions
Viking Invasions Map

However, the Vikings first set their sights on England in the late 700s. England was under rule by the Anglo-Saxons at the time, and after trading goods throughout Europe they had become very rich. The Vikings had heard about how rich the Anglo-Saxons were and saw an opportunity to steal!

In 790 AD the Vikings traveled by boat to the east coast of England and raided towns for gold, silver, cattle and slaves. They raided England several times, but some Vikings decided to stay in England and start a new life there!

Fact 3: The Danish Vikings decided to settle in England

Vikings originally came from Scandinavia, an area that includes the countries Sweden, Norway and Denmark. The Danish Vikings decided to leave Scandinavia and move all the way to England.

There were several reasons why the Vikings eventually settled in England:

  • Denmark’s soil was not very good, and the Vikings were finding it hard to grow crops and raise their cattle.
  • Some areas of Scandinavia were very hilly, which was another reason why growing crops was hard.
  • Scandinavia was also becoming overcrowded with people, which made some Vikings want to move away.
  • Only the eldest son in a Viking family would inherit land, the other sons were made to join the army.
  • The main reason the Vikings eventually invaded England was for farmland.

When the Vikings invaded England, they conquered Northumbria, East Anglia, and settled throughout the north and east of England.

Fact 4: The Vikings fought with the Anglo-Saxons over who would rule England

Before the Vikings came to England, the country was divided into several kingdoms ruled by Anglo-Saxons. When the Vikings arrived, only one Anglo-Saxon kingdom remained, and that was the kingdom of Wessex, ruled by King Alfred the Great.

King Alfred The Great

This meant that when the Vikings invaded England, it was down to King Alfred to stop them from conquering his kingdom of Wessex.

In 878 AD there was a battle between the Anglo-Saxons and the Vikings. The Saxons were led by King Alfred, and the Vikings were led by the Viking leader Guthrum. This was called the Battle of Edington.

King Alfred won the battle, and he created a peace agreement with Guthrum. The peace agreement meant that Vikings could continue to live in the north and east of England, and rule the area as if it was their own. This area was called the Danelaw, mainly because Danish law was followed there.

Fact 5: The Vikings controlled an area of England called Danelaw

The Vikings lived in the north and east of England, and this area was known as Danelaw. The Vikings ruled this area with their own unique laws and customs. They also used their own farming techniques, had special crafts and spoke Nordic languages!

The Danelaw

Some Vikings continued to raid Anglo-Saxon territory, but others settled down to life as farmers. Some Vikings even married Anglo-Saxons!

The Danelaw territory included towns and cities such as Bedford, Buckingham, Cambridge, Derby, Essex, Hertford, Huntingdon, Lincoln, Middlesex, Norfolk, Northampton, Nottingham, Suffolk and York. York was the most important city and the Vikings called it “Jorvik”. It was a hub for trading goods and 10,000 people lived there.     

The Vikings renamed a lot of the places in their territory, giving them suffixes such as “by” to represent farms, and “thorpe” to represent hamlets or villages. We still use a lot of these place names today, such as Grimsby and Scunthorpe.

A Viking influence is still noticeable in other areas of English culture too, such as the days of the week. Thursday is named after the Viking god Thor, and Wednesday is named after the god Odin.