The Danelaw also came to signify, by the 11th century, the regions in which Scandinavian settlers built their Danish / Norwegian Viking villages, and formed towns and what were for the times cities . These included the regionsof Northumbria, Lincoln, Nottingham, Derby, Leicester, Stamford, East Anglia, and the Midlands. It was in these regions that the Danish invaders constructed their society around the traditions, and laws of their ancestors. It was here that the Danelaw ruled for about 250 years fairly unopposed.
These settlements all began around the year 861 C.E. when Ivar, known as the boneless, and his half - brother Halfdan Ragnarrson assaulted and captured Northumbria. Strangely they did not try to rule directly but put on the throne an Englishman named Ecgberht I. He was king in name only, and was really only a tool to be manipulated by the Danes.
The English tried to extricate the Danes a year later, under Athelred of Wessex, but they could not dislodge them from their fortifications in Nottingham. Realizing the stalemate the two sides sued for peace. The Danes were allowed to keep what they had won in Nottingham as long as they recognized the sovereignty of Mercia and left it alone. But when have the Vikings ever left well enough alone ?!
East Anglia was the next target of Ivar the Boneless. In a series of battles that see - sawed back and forth for ten years, the outcome was in doubt. The Danes first defeated King Edmund at Hoxne. Aethelred once again, with the aid of his brother Alfred, attacked the Danes at Reading, but lost with heavy casualties. The Danes then went on the offensive, but they too were thoroughly defeated at the hands of the English brothers at the Battle of Ashtown. The Danes were forced to retreat before Aethelred, but made a stand at Basing, and there defeated King Aethelred. The next battle at Meretum was also a victory for the Viking invaders.
When King Aethelred died in 871 C.E., Alfred became King of Wessex. He, however, was a weak king and wound up paying Ivar Danegeld to keep the peace. This gave Ivar a free hand, so he went north and in a series of battles that took three years defeated the Mercians. Ivar the Boneless, and the Mercian King Burgred died during this campaign. Guthrum, who succeeded Ivar, signed a peace treaty in 876 with King Alfred of Wessex.
The balance of power in the region shifted when Guthrum, in a series of disastrous battles over several years, withdrew after the Battle of Ethandun. The Danes withdrew to Chippenham where Alfred of Wessex beseiged Guthrum and forced the Danes to surrender. One of the terms of this " surrender ", was that Guthrum be baptised, and convert to Christianity. Christian or not, in 884 Guthrum once again attacked Wessex, but was once again defeated by Alfred. After this battle the Treaty of Alfred and Guthrum was signed which set the boundaries for the Danish territories, The Danelaw, and allowed them to keep self rule. This leads me to believe that this battle was not quite the absolute defeat that is written about in the histories. Why else would the Wessex king give such good terms to the Danes?
By this time other Scandinavians were becoming involved in The Danelaw territory, such as : the Norwegians under King Ragnold, Eric Bloodaxe, and Harald Hardrada; and Sweyn the Second of Denmark. These of course were minor skirmishes compared to the war against the English waged by William the Conqueror. This conquest effectively ended Scandinavian autonomy for good when William of Normandy defeated King Sweyn II. This is seen as the end of the Scandinavian era in England, though the people who remained still influenced customs, as do all immigrants to a new land.
This influence can still be seen to this day, some 1000 years later, in the DNA of the inhabitants of those who live in Northern England and Ireland. Many of the town names have a Scandinavian flavor, and context, and many Scandinavian words were incorporated into the English vocabulary. Just as the Rus Vikings influenced the history of Russia, so too did the Danish and Norwegian Vikings influence the Britains, especially in Northern England. If not for William the Conqueror there is no telling just how much influence the Scandinavians could have held over these British lands.
Go with Odin's wisdom, Freyja's love, and Thor's protection !