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7th May 2016 23rd April 2017 By author In

A Brief History Of The Danish Vikings And Of The Danelaw

in Denmark represented an eventful period of time that saw the rise of the Danish Vikings as an important military force in northwestern Europe. So it is that during the Early Middle Ages the Danish Vikings voyaged across the North Sea to Britain and established the Danelaw, a historical regional in eastern Britain where the laws of the Scandinavian settlers held sway over those of during the 9th century.

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The Viking Age officially started in the late 8th century, specifically in the year 793, when a group of Norwegian Vikings attacked the Catholic abbey of Lindisfarne, located less than one mile off the northeastern coast of the Kingdom of Northumbria suggested that it actually commenced in Ribe, Denmark approximately 70 years earlier). Since then, both the Norwegian and the Danish Vikings recurrently raided Britain in the upcoming three centuries. The Norse raided parts of Ireland, Scotland, the Orkneys, Shetlands, Hebrides, and the Isle of Man, while the Danes attacked the Anglian kingdoms of Wessex and Mercia.

King Cnut the Great’s domains, c. 1028, in red. Vassals are denoted in orange, with other allied states in yellow. Image source:

The Danelaw was established as a result of King Alfred the Great’s efforts to avoid further Viking raids in the Anglian Kingdom of Wessex. He proceeded by ceding lands to the Danes who then engaged primarily in trade and built settlements. It is also known that the Danelaw consisted of fifteen shires. The territorial extent of the Danelaw comprised as such the modern day shires of York, Nottingham, Derby, Lincoln, Essex, Cambridge, Suffolk, Norfolk, Northampton, Huntingdon, Bedford, Hertford, Middlesex, and Buckingham.

Britain in 886, at the time of the Danish conquest. The Danelaw is highlighted in purple on the map. Image source:

In Danish, the Danelaw is known as ‘Danelagen’ and in Old English as ‘Dena lagu’, being described in the Anglo-Saxon chronicle, a collection of annals recounting the history of the Anglo-Saxons which was written during the late part of the 9th century.

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