How many Norse settled in England?

Jun 2015
5,659
UK
#1
the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle says that once the Great Heathen Army conquered Northumbria, they settled and created farms and settlements. Many of these places presumably still exist, like Selby, Thirsk, or Grimsby, which are all of Norse origin.
But then how many Norse could have settled? The Army must have numbered in the thousands, and they may also have brought over family to stay with them. And given the number of Norse placenames in northern England, then quite a few Army veterans settled down. And there are some points that complicate matters.

I'd imagine the Norse settlements were established in the late 9th/early 10th centuries, but there may also have been Norse who lived in Anglo-Saxon settlements, like Sheffield, Bradford, Howden, Beverley, etc. Maybe these places had a Norse Jarl ruling them and Anglo-Saxons living there, or the local Anglo-Saxon thegn just swore allegiance to the Norse king in Jorvik (since King Aelle had died).

And there may have been waves of settlement, even after Athelstan conquered it, and Eadred defeated Eric Bloodaxe. There were apparently ethnic Norse living in England by Athelred's time, and he obviously killed quite a few of them. And this was many years after the initial Norse conquests. And some Norse may have come still during Cnut's reign. Even Harold Godwinson had a Norse mother.

DNA evidence is moot, since both Anglo-Saxons and Norse had similar Germanic DNA. At the time of the Norse invasions, there probably was a genetic difference, since the initial Anglo-Saxon invasions saw assimilation of Romano-Britons, who genetically were Celtic. But as of 2019, we cannot say which Germanic portion of the average English person is largely Anglo-Saxon or Norse. Most may have both, though some may have solely Norse or Anglo-Saxon.

The Yorkshire dialect has a strong mix of both Anglo-Saxon and Norse origin words, and we know that whenever populations mix, or there are migrations of scale, that language changes. It's why much London slang, especially amongst youth, is Jamaican-based.

There are areas with few Norse placenames that had Norse settlements. Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, and Cheshire are examples. Norse could have settled in a place like Ely, and assimilated with the local Anglo-Saxons.

Have any formal estimates been made how many Norse settled?
 

authun

Ad Honorem
Aug 2011
5,039
#2
The numbers are difficult to establish using place names. The 'bu' ending, denoting a farm, and seen as the by' suffix mostly, became a naming convention so names like Flimby or Frisby, which denote flemings and frisians resp. are not danish at all. In addition, there were name changes, eg Whitby, which used to be Streonshalh before the danelaw. Names like Cleethorpes are interesting because whilst 'thorpe' is norse, 'thorpes' is plural and Clee is anglo saxon, from Cleia, clay. The name refers to the thorpes of Clee ie Itterby, Oole and Thrunscoe. The perticipants of the original army took land for themselves and extracted tribute from the anglo saxon farmers. More danes arrive as settlers but, they tended to get the more marginal lands. There was no point in ejecteing an anglo saxon who was producing in favour od some total unknown, even if he did speak the same language.

There must have been traffic both ways because of the trade conenctions, between York and Ribe or Hedeby for example. The distinctly norse grave markers, the Hogbacks, common enough in Yorkshire and around Glasgow seem to have developed here but the idea made its way back to Denmark. Below are examples from Brompton.






Pieces of hogbacks are often found in the stone walls of older churchers:




The level of settlement was enough to leave words like 'window' and 'anger' in the english language and in places like Yorkshire, was sufficient to leave linguistic fossils in the dialect, laikin, lop, upskittle, beck, carr, dollop, gate, gill, happen etc.
 
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Isleifson

Ad Honorem
Aug 2013
3,731
Lorraine tudesque
#3
The numbers are difficult to establish using place names. The 'bu' ending, denoting a farm, and seen as the by' suffix mostly, became a naming convention so names like Flimby or Frisby, which denote flemings and frisians resp. are not danish at all. In addition, there were name changes, eg Whitby, which used to be Streonshalh before the danelaw. Names like Cleethorpes are interesting because whilst 'thorpe' is norse, 'thorpes' is plural and Clee is anglo saxon, from Cleia, clay. The name refers to the thorpes of Clee ie Itterby, Oole and Thrunscoe. The perticipants of the original army took land for themselves and extracted tribute from the anglo saxon farmers. More danes arrive as settlers but, they tended to get the more marginal lands. There was no point in ejecteing an anglo saxon who was producing in favour od some total unknown, even if he did speak the same language.

There must have been traffic both ways because of the trade conenctions, between York and Ribe or Hedeby for example. The distinctly norse grave markers, the Hogbacks, common enough in Yorkshire and around Glasgow seem to have developed here but the idea made its way back to Denmark. Below are examples from Brompton.






Pieces of hogbacks are often found in the stone walls of older churchers:




The level of settlement was enough to leave words like 'window' and 'anger' in the english language and in places like Yorkshire, was sufficient to leave linguistic fossils in the dialect, laikin, lop, upskittle, beck, carr, dollop, gate, gill, happen etc.
Spolia are always very interesting

Spolia - Wikipedia
 
Nov 2011
8,848
The Dustbin, formerly, Garden of England
#4
If "Norse" is intended to mean Danes rather than the later Norwegian Vikings--the "Great Heathen Army" and Great Summer Army" is estimated to have been around 30,000 strong, with perhaps as many as 40,000 if previously settled Danes are included according to the study linked below. The figures are contested.
This is against an estimate population of England (exc.Scotland and Wales) of around 1.3 to 1.4 million in c. 800 AD.

The ‘People of the British Isles’ project and Viking settlement in England | Antiquity | Cambridge Core
 
Jun 2015
5,659
UK
#5
If "Norse" is intended to mean Danes rather than the later Norwegian Vikings--the "Great Heathen Army" and Great Summer Army" is estimated to have been around 30,000 strong, with perhaps as many as 40,000 if previously settled Danes are included according to the study linked below. The figures are contested.
This is against an estimate population of England (exc.Scotland and Wales) of around 1.3 to 1.4 million in c. 800 AD.

The ‘People of the British Isles’ project and Viking settlement in England | Antiquity | Cambridge Core
It seems the Anglo-Saxons used Danes as a catch-all term for all Norse, since we don't know if many of them came from what was to be Denmark. True differentiation between the Scandivaian countries only happened in the High Middle Ages, as there were numerous raiders to England from Norway and Sweden. Olaf of Norway won the Battle of Maldon, and there was King Harald Hardrada who was king of Norway. Since the Great Heathen Army was a coalition, it may have included some Norwegians and Swedish Norse as much as Danish.
 

authun

Ad Honorem
Aug 2011
5,039
#6
If "Norse" is intended to mean Danes rather than the later Norwegian Vikings
It is very difficult to separate these peoples. The Norse from Trøndelag in Norway did settle in places like Orkney but they were different from the more populous peoples in southern Norway. Most of the people who came belonged to one of a number of networks of thegns who often competed with one another. These networks too were wide ranging. The high status burials at Repton suggests one, presumably a chieftain, came from around Birka in Uppsala. This was Budds isoptopic report:

"The third Viking burial (G529) has a tooth enamel strontium and oxygen isotope composition which is widely divergent from G511 and G295. The O-isotope composition of G529’s enamel (–10.1‰) is far too low for precipitation falling in Great Britain but characteristic of rainfall in eastern Sweden, Baltic Europe and parts of eastern central Europe and south-western Russia. This individual also has a comparatively radiogenic tooth enamel strontium isotope composition. Given existing knowledge of the extent of Viking influence in the later ninth century, it seems possible that G529s place of origin may have been southeastern Sweden. It is notable in this context that the gold finger ring with which he was buried has close parallels at Birka near present day Stockholm and at Fyrkat in north Jutland (Aitken & Arwidsson 1986; Roesdhal, 1977)"