In the late 700s sea-raiders – Vikings – from Norway and Denmark began attacking coastal and riverside towns in England. An army of Danish Vikings, known as the ‘Great Army’, landed in England in 865 and over the next few years defeated the forces of the small Anglo-Saxon kingdoms.
In 878 the West Saxon king, Alfred, rallied his troops to defeat the Danes. By 886 he had recaptured the London area and made peace with the Danish leader Guthrum. The Danes controlled north and east England, the area called the ‘Danelaw’.
During the next century Alfred’s successors won back control of most of the Danelaw. But further attacks after 1000 led to a Danish prince, Cnut (‘Canute’), becoming king of England in 1016.