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[[File:Life of St. Edmund, Barbarians Invading England, c 1130.JPG|thumbnail|
300px|left|Figure 1. The time of St. Edmund, who was an East Anglia king who died at the hands of the Viking invasions of England.]]
The Viking, or more accurately Danish and Norsemen, invasions of England in the 9th century CE (865) helped lead to what ultimately would become the united country of England. Before 865, England was divided into four or sometimes more countries, populated by Angles and Saxons (or Anglo-Saxons). Wales and Cornwall were also occupied by the remaining Britons, who were the pre-Roman population of the British Isles.
===Impact of Viking Invasions===
300px|Oseberg ship, Kulturhistorisk museum (Viking Ship Museum), Oslo, Norway.]]
By 865, the Danes and Norse had seen the British Isles as a region to settle rather than simply raid (Figure 1). At that point, climate conditions in Denmark and Scandinavia may have forced many populations out of the region because it became difficult to farm. This likely encouraged many Danes to take to raiding and then later into settling new areas, where a more stable economy could be established for them. The British Isles, fed by the warmer waters from the Gulf stream, were attractive and fertile land. After landing in 865, eventually the Danes had defeated three of the four kingdoms of England, including Northumbria, Mercia, and East Anglia, with only Wessex having survived this onslaught. The conflict with Wessex occupied much of the late 860s and early 870s. Alfred, later known as Alfred the Great, took up the throne of Wessex and confronted the Danes. For a while, the conflict swung back and forth.<ref>For more on the background on the conflict between the Vikings and Anglo-Saxons, see: Baillie, Benjamin James. 2015. <i>The Great Heathen Army: Ivar "the Boneless" and the Viking invasion of Britain</i>. Benjamin James Baillie.</ref>
===Why England Became United===
[[File:18205178532 3b824328aa b.jpg|thumbnail|
300px|left|Figure 2. Statues of King Athelstan, who first united England.]]
What is clear is that all of the kingdoms that became England either willingly joined Wessex or eventually joined after a relatively brief power struggle. In effect, the invasions and occupation by the Danes and Norse led to many Anglo-Saxons to see Wessex as the unifying force the country needed in order to effectively deal with major invasions such as that witnessed in 865. While Alfred did call himself "King of the English speaking people," he was able to transplant this idea to his son and grandson, where the idea of England as a unified state soon became state policy in the reconquest and propaganda that justified why Wessex now controlled the former Anglo-Saxon states (Figure 2). Many, particularly in Mercia, did not want Wessex to rule over all England; however, the continued threat of Danish and Norse invasions, including those that occurred later, did help rally people to Wessex, weakening opposition to Wessex (Figure 2).
It took outsiders, who were far more superior in military capability, initially, that created great weakness in three of the four major English kingdoms. This provided an opportunity for Alfred the Great and his successors to not only eventually reconquer the kingdoms but the invasions served as a way to unify the English speaking population. It would be hard to imagine that England could have formed relatively easily in the 10th century without the invasions in the 9th century by the Vikings. Possibly, it would have taken longer and examples of Italy and Germany in the 19th centuries show that this process could have even taken centuries. Nevertheless, the invasions allowed the eventual creation of England and subsequent spreading and dominance of English culture and language that occurred many centuries later.
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