The Danelaw

28 Mar, 2019 940 History of Europe

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the effective partition of England in the 880s after a century of Viking raids, invasions and settlements. Alfred of Wessex, the surviving Anglo-Saxon king and Guthrum, a Danish ruler, had fought each other to a stalemate and came to terms, with Guthrum controlling the land to the east (once he had agreed to convert to Christianity). The key strategic advantage the invaders had was the Viking ships which were far superior and enabled them to raid from the sea and up rivers very rapidly. Their Great Army had arrived in the 870s, conquering the kingdom of Northumbria and occupying York. They defeated the king of Mercia and seized part of his land. They killed the Anglo-Saxon king of East Anglia and gained control of his territory. It was only when a smaller force failed to defeat Wessex that the Danelaw came into being, leaving a lasting impact on the people and customs of that area.

Listen on BBC Sounds website


  • Judith Jesch 2 episodes
    Professor of Viking Studies at the University of Nottingham
  • John Hines 6 episodes
    Professor of Archaeology at Cardiff University
  • Jane Kershaw No other episodes
    ERC Principal Investigator in Archaeology at the University of Oxford

Reading list

  • Viking Age Sculpture in Northern England
    Richard N. Bailey (Collins, 1980) Google Books →
  • The Vikings in Britain and Ireland
    Jayne Carroll, Stephen Harrison and Gareth Williams (British Museum Press, 2014) Google Books →
  • Vikings and the Danelaw: Select Papers from the Proceedings of the Thirteenth Viking Congress
    James Graham-Campbell, Richard Hall, Judith Jesch and David N. Parsons (eds) (Oxbow Books, 2001) Google Books →
  • The Vikings in England: Settlement, Society and Culture
    D. M. Hadley (Manchester University Press, 2006) Google Books →
  • Aspects of Anglo-Scandinavian York
    Richard A. Hall et al. (York Archaeological Trust, 2005)
  • The Viking Diaspora
    Judith Jesch (Routledge, 2015) Google Books →
  • Viking Identities: Scandinavian Jewellery in England
    Jane Kershaw (Oxford University Press, 2013) Google Books →
  • Viking-Age England
    Julian D. Richards (The History Press, 2004) Google Books →
  • Language and History in Viking Age England: Linguistic Relations Between Speakers of Old Norse and Old English
    Matthew Townend (Brepols, 2005) Google Books →
  • Viking Age Yorkshire
    Matthew Townend (Blackthorn Press, 2014) Google Books →
  • Viking Britain: A History
    Thomas Williams (William Collins, 2017) Google Books →

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Programme ID: m0003jp7

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Auto-category: 940.1 (Medieval history of Europe)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. In the late ninth century, Alfred the Great of Wessex and Guthrum, leader of the Danish forces, after Alfred's victory at the Battle of Eddington in 878, divided England between them along a line roughly from London to Chester.