When half of England was Viking
Written for The Viking Network by Barrie Rhodes
Though The Danelaw was brought back under English control within 50 years, Scandinavian cultural influences continued to be important there for many generations. Even today there are clear clues which show this area to be different from the rest of England.
As part of the Treaty of Wedmore, a boundary was drawn across England from London to the Mersey. South of this line, the laws and customs would be those of the English, under the rule of the King of Wessex. The land to the north and east of this line would be under Viking rule, with Scandinavian laws and customs. This Viking part of England became known as The Danelaw. Today, some historians refer to The Danelaw as ‘Scandinavian England’.
In The Danelaw, many warriors of the Vikings armies settled. Instead of wandering about, raiding and plundering, they started supporting themselves by farming and trading.
The Vikings took control of English villages and estates within The Danelaw. Often they established new villages. We know that Vikings did this because of the kinds of names given to the villages they established, and the new names given to existing English villages.
Farms and village communities needed both men and women to run them, so the Vikings would have had to find themselves wives. The people of The Danelaw may soon have come to think of themselves as more Viking than English.
The descendants of Alfred the Great certainly thought of The Danelaw as ‘Viking’ and continued the effort to bring it back under English control. By the time this was eventually done, the Vikings had stamped something of their own character on the people, language, customs and administration of The Danelaw.