The lost battles of Viking Britain

From Anglo-Saxons slaughtered by Vikings in East Anglia to the Norse king ambushed and slain in the Pennines, Britain's Viking age saw bloodletting on a huge scale. Thomas Williams introduces five forgotten battles that helped shape a nation's destiny...

Detail of the carved portal of Hylestad stave church, 12th century. (Photo by Werner Forman/Universal Images Group/Getty Images)

The Viking age gave us some of the most iconic battles in British history. There was Edington, Alfred the Great’s against-the-odds triumph in AD 878 over part of a massive Danish invasion force; Brunanburh (AD 937) in which Alfred’s grandson Æthelstan stamped his authority on the British Isles; and Stamford Bridge (1066), where the bones of Harald Hardrada’s Viking army were left to whiten on the field, picked clean by carrion birds.

But the Viking age lasted for almost three centuries: from the end of the eighth until deep into the 11th. Over this period, in England alone, sources document at least 50 pitched battles, plus as many raids, sieges and naval encounters. Most of these have been all but forgotten over the centuries.

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