After the Romans left much of Europe in 410 AD, the civilization quickly deteriorated. Raids were a frequent problem because of groups such as pirates, and groups such as the Vikings and Scots took steps to protect themselves from their enemies. Many European towns would begin hiring mercenaries from other parts of Europe to protect their towns against these raiders. The primary group that was used for this task was the Saxons and Angles who came from Germany. In return for their mercenary services, the Saxons and the Angles were given land that they could use for the purpose of farming.
However, it appears that this tactic backfired after a certain period of time. The Angles and the Saxons eventually became known as the Anglo Saxons, and they would eventually gain control over the entire area. While the Anglo Saxons made powerful mercenaries, they were not as skilled as the Romans when it came to administrative issues. They would eventually colonise most of the country, and the Celts, who were the natives of Britain, would be forced to move to other parts of the region. It is at this point that Britain became known as being an Anglo Saxon controlled region. The Celts went on to live in places such as Wales, Scotland, and Cornwall.
The Anglo Saxons would merge the areas they controlled into kingdoms, and by 850 AD, Britain had three kingdoms that were rivals of each other. The names for these three kingdoms were Wessex, Northumbria, and Mercia. They were constantly being attacked by raiders such as the Vikings. While most of the raids were small in scale, a massive attack carried out in East Anglia around 865 AD allowed the Vikings to gain a substantial amount of control over the region. In the year 875 AD, the Vikings had successfully captured both Northumbria and Mercia. At this time, only Wessex was still under the control of the Anglo Saxons.
However, the Vikings were not satisfied with their conquests of Mercia and Northumbria, and they decided to attack Wessex as well. Their attack on Wessex forced Alfred, the Saxon king, to leave the region for Somerset. Once he arrived in Somerset, Alfred put together his military force and responded against the Vikings with a counter attack. Both he and his descendants finally managed to push the Vikings out of the region after many years of war. By 955 AD, Eadred, the grandson of Alfred, was the ruler of an England that was finally unified. The government consolidated its power, and Eadred had the resources to rule the country efficiently.
Unfortunately, the Vikings continued to attack the country. Their campaigns were successful, and the country was once again under the control of the Vikings by 1016. During this time, Cnut ruled the country, and he was a member of the Vikings. While the country remained stable during his rule, it deteriorated shortly after his death. The country was split into a number of rival regions, and though Edward the Confessor was the ruler, he did not display a large amount of courage and resolve. Of all the rulers of the various regions, Harold of East Anglia was the strongest. He was eventually able to gain control of Wessex through various means, and he gained the thrown in 1066 when Edward the Confessor died.
However, William of Normandy didn't feel that Harold had the right to rule. He too had the right to become king. The two most important influences on England during this time were Christianity and the Vikings. It was the Vikings who led to William being able to gain the entire country. Once Edward the confessor died, the Vikings took advantage of the opportunity to recapture Britain. They brought an army to Yorkshire after his death, and they prepared for battle with Harold. Though Harold successfully defeated the Viking army, his celebration was short lived when he realised that William had appeared in southern England.
After a bloody battle with the Vikings, Harold was now forced to march his already tired army to Hasting where they would meet William and his men in yet another battle. The Normans had large amounts of energy, and both their archers and horsemen were highly skilled, allowing them to earn a landslide victory when Harold was killed by an arrow. William I then became king of London in 1066.
Original Authors: Stephen Palmer
Edit Update Authors: M.A.Harris
Updated On: 15/07/2008