As the Saxon kingdoms of England grew settled,
new invasions occurred.
Vikings from Scandinavia begin as “hit and run”
raiders, but will end as settlers throughout Europe.
The shallow draft of Viking long-ships allowed the
Vikings to navigate Europe’s many rivers, and
penetrate far deeper than just coastal areas.
Vikings were pirates and pagans.
• The most powerful Nordic god was Odin.
• Odin ruled Valhalla, the hall of slain heroes.
• Thor, god of thunder, was most popular amongst
In the 790s, Viking raiders began to target
monasteries located along the English coast.
By the 860s, England faced major invasions by the
Viking “Great Heathen Army” led by Ivar the
• This Viking army
conquered most of eastern
England. Their territory
was called the Danelaw.
• Wessex was the last of the
Anglo-Saxon kingdoms to
• Wessex survived because of
its willingness to pay
Saxon King Alfred (the Great) created fyrd
rotation system: half of Saxon males on active
duty/half stay home and harvest crops.
• Alfred defeats Vikings at Battle of Edington (878)
• After this victory the Vikings agreed to convert to
Alfred guaranteed peace by building fortified
villages called burhs, which hemmed the Vikings
into Danelaw while protecting coastal areas.
Alfred’s descendants built on his military success,
and gradually took back much Saxon land from the
• Viking rule of the Danelaw
ended in 954.
For the next 35 years (954-980) the Saxons were
free of Viking raids.
• Then, in 968, “Ethelred the Unready”
became boy-king of the Saxons.
• In 980, when Ethelred was 14 years
old, Vikings began to raids again.
In 991, a large band of Vikings began raiding the
coast of England.
• A Saxon army, led by the Earl
Byrhtnoth, marched to
challenge the Viking forces as
they advanced on Maldon.
• The Viking boats landed on
Northey Island to the east of
Maldon, but it was high tide
and so there was a shouted
negotiation where Byrhtnoth
refused to pay the invaders to
depart but rather challenged
them to battle.
As the tide fell the Viking force attempted to cross
the causeway but a small band of Saxons held them
• Needing to bring the
enemy to battle and defeat
them, if he was to protect
England from further
withdrew and allowed the
Vikings to cross to the
narrow causeway to the
The Saxons formed up in a shield wall and the
• The Vikings advanced and let fly spears, then the
two sides locked into hand to hand fighting,
thrusting with spears and slashing with swords.
The battle turned against the Saxons when
Byrhtnoth was killed.
• Once they realized their
commander was dead
some of the Saxons fled
to the woods behind
• But Byrhtnoth’s own
bodyguard fought on to
revenge his death,
killing large numbers of
the enemy before they
too were cut down.
The Viking victory at Maldon (991), triggered
another series of invasions of Saxon England.
• In 1016, a Viking became king of all of Saxon
England. He and his family would rule for 26
Saxons regained control of England in 1042, but
they would lose power to another group of Vikings
attacking from Normandy France (Nor-man-dy =
land of Northmen).
1066: Saxon king of England died without leaving
At the Battle of
Saxons and takes
control of England.
Reasons for Norman victory:
• Lack of diversity of
Saxon forces and
• William’s use of
• William’s use of
fake retreat as a
After his conquest of England, William consolidated
power by granting large fiefs (estates) to trusted
• This led to the development of a political system
called feudalism based on land (called a fief)
given by monarchs or nobles in exchange for the
loyalty of followers (vassals).
Saxon kings next created a professional force of 3,000
warriors called housecarls, whose main weapon was the
two-handed battle axe.