Did the Vikings Win Against England? A Historical Overview

The Vikings, seafaring Norsemen from Scandinavia, are often remembered for their dramatic raids and invasions of European lands during the Viking Age (approximately AD 793 to 1066). One of the most significant territories impacted by the Vikings was England. Here’s a brief look at the complex relationship between the Vikings and the English:

Did the Vikings Win Against England?

1. The Raids Begin (Late 8th Century):

The Viking Age commenced with the raid on the Lindisfarne monastery in 793. The Norse seafarers targeted monasteries due to their wealth and relatively undefended nature. This raid was the beginning of several sporadic Viking attacks on the English coast.

2. The Great Heathen Army (865 AD):

In 865, a large Viking force known as the Great Heathen Army invaded England. Over the next decade, they conquered significant portions of England. By the late 870s, only the Kingdom of Wessex, under King Alfred the Great, resisted Viking dominion.

3. The Treaty of Alfred and Guthrum (c. 886):

King Alfred successfully defended Wessex and pushed back against the Viking incursions. By around 886, Alfred and the Viking leader, Guthrum, reached an agreement that divided England. The Vikings controlled the Danelaw (eastern and northern parts), while Alfred ruled over Wessex.

4. The Renewed Viking Assaults (Late 10th Century):

Throughout the 10th century, there were renewed Viking attacks, with Norsemen looking to expand their territories. English kingdoms gradually unified, and by the late 10th century, the term “England” came into more regular use.

5. Viking Rule and the Kingdom of England:

In 1013, King Sweyn Forkbeard of Denmark successfully invaded England, becoming the first Viking king of all of England. His rule was short-lived, and after his death, his son Cnut (or Canute) took over. Cnut ruled a North Sea empire, which included Denmark, England, Norway, and parts of what is now Sweden.

6. End of Viking Rule in England:

Cnut’s descendants ruled England until 1042, after which the Anglo-Saxon line was restored with Edward the Confessor. However, the Viking connection wasn’t entirely severed. The last Viking attempt to claim the English throne culminated in the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066, where King Harold of England defeated the Norwegian King Harald Hardrada. Shortly after, Harold faced William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings and lost, ushering in Norman rule.


So, did the Vikings “win” against England? The answer is multifaceted. While the Vikings did conquer and control substantial parts of England for decades, they never managed to establish a long-lasting Norse dynasty. England’s history was significantly shaped by its interactions with the Vikings, with periods of both Norse rule and cooperation. Still, in the grand tapestry of history, England’s identity remained distinct, even as it absorbed Norse influences.

Leave a Comment