The Vikings: Aggressors Who Decided to Stay

A fleet of Viking longships.
Scandinavian Viking in full warrior outfit.
The Danelaw: an area in Britain where Danish law applied.

During the Middle Ages, the Vikings sailed all over Europe in their intimidating dragon-headed longships. Sometimes they came to loot in the lands that they discovered, and other times they looked to trade or settle down.

In Britain, Vikings first appeared in the 8th century as looters. Eagerly, the Scandinavians plundered both coastal towns and monasteries, viciously killing those who took a stand. Not surprisingly — and quite rightfully — this earned them a reputation on the British Isles of being greedy and savage.

Danish law

After having raided the British coast for several decades, Vikings finally decided to settle here permanently in the 9th century. Before long, they then famously took control over an extensive geographical area known as the Danelaw, in the northeast of Britain. Here, kings of Danish descent ruled for tens of years in accordance with Danish law, with various Viking kings then repeatedly claiming the throne of parts of Britain for some two hundred years.

Over the centuries, as aspiring kings alternately won and lost power, the Vikings and the original population of Britain traded with each other and intermarried. Eventually, this led to Scandinavian cultures and languages becoming interwoven with traditional British cultures and languages, and because of this, Vikings in Britain stopped being labelled Vikings and started to be considered Britons.

Viking bloodlines

Another consequence of Vikings mixing with the other peoples on the British Isles, fast-forwarding to today, is that many Britons and other Anglophones have Viking ancestry. However, given how few people even know the names of their great-great-grandparents, you should not expect any Brit to know about Viking bloodlines from a millennia ago.