For three centuries a struggle went on between the little Anglo-Saxon kingdoms set up in the 5th – 6th centuries. As feudal relations develop the owners of the bad landed estates strive to unity the separate kingdoms into one state under the power of the king.
At the end of the 8th century another branch of Germanic people begins to attack Britain the separated Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms fighting among themselves become an easy prey for the invaders. The 9th century sees the political unification of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms.
How the united Kingdom of the England established;
How England was raided by new enemies;
How the Kingdom of England was strengthened under the reign of Alfred the Great.
Unification of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms
The Anglo-Saxon Kingdom waged a constant struggle against one another for predominance over the country. From time to time some stronger state seized the land of the neighboring Kingdoms and made them to pay tribute, or ever ruled them directly. The number of Kingdoms was always changing, so were their boundaries.
The greatest and the most important Kingdoms were Northumbria, Mercia and Wessex. For a time Northumbria gained supremacy. Mercia was the next Kingdom to take the lead. The struggle for predominance continued and at last at the beginning of the 9th century Wessex became the strongest state. In 829 Egber, king of Wessex, was acknowledged by the Kent, Mercia and Northumbria. This was really the beginning of the united Kingdom of England, for Wessex never again lost its supremacy and King Egbert became the King of England. Under his rule all the small Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms were united to form one Kingdom which was called England from that time on.
The clergy, royal warriors and official supported the King ‘s power. It was the King who granted them land and the right to collect dues from the peasants and to hold judgment over them. In this was the royal power helped them to deprive the peasants of their land and to turn them into serfs.
The political unification of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms was sped up by the urgent task of defending the country against the dangerous raids of new enemies. From the end of the 8th century and during the 9th and the 10th centuries Western Europe was troubled by a new wave of barbarian attacks. These barbarians came from the North from Norway, Sweden and Denmark and were called Northmen. In different countries the Northmen were known as the Vikings, the Normans, the Danes. They came to Britain from the invaders came to be known in English history as the Danes.
Danish Raids on England
The Danes were of the same Germanic race as the Anglo-Saxons themselves and they came from the same part of the continent. But unlike the Anglo-Saxons whose way of life had changed greatly ever since they came to the Britain, the Danes still lived in tribes. They were still pagans. They worshipped Woden. The god of war – Thor, the Hammer God and other gods.
At the end of the 8th century they began to attack Britain, as the Anglo-Saxons had done themselves four centuries earlier.
The Danes were well armed with sword, spear, dagger, battle-axe and bow. Their ships were sailed-boats but they were also provided with oars. The sails were often striped red and blue and green. The Danes were bold and skilful seamen.
In 793 the Danes carried out their first raids on Britain. Their earliest raids were for plunder only. The raiders came in three or four ships, each with as many as a hundred men on board. They came in spring and summer and when the ships was loaded with plunder they returned home for the winter. Every year they went to different places – rarely to the same place twice. Thus all the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms faced the same dangerous enemy.
In later years large Danish fleets (more than three hundred ships) brought large armies to conquer and settle in the new lands. They didn’t go home for the winter but they made large camps, well-guaranteed to which they brought booty.
From these camps the Danes would make many raids upon the village in the area. This began the fourth conquest of Britain.
The Danish raids were successful because the Kingdom of England had neither a regular army nor fleet in the north sea to meet them. These were no coastguards to watch the coast of the island and this made it possible for the raiders to appear quite unexpectedly. Besides there were very few roads and large parts of the country were covered with pathless forests or swaps. It took several weeks sometimes before anyone could reach a settlement from where a messenger could be sent to the King or to the nearest great and powerful noble, to ask to help. It would take the King or the noble another few weeks to get his fighting men together and go fight against the enemy.