The History of Yorkshire in the Middle Ages

The early inhabitants of Yorkshire were Celts, who were divided into two tribes: the Parisi and the Brigantes.

By the Middle Ages, Yorkshire had been ruled by the Romans and then overtaken by King Jorvik, the Danish Viking. The Great Heathen Army invaded Northumbria in 866 AD, and conquered what is modern day York. The Danes renamed the area Jorvik and made it the capital city of the Danish kingdom.

The Danish kingdom covered most of Southern Northumbria, which included the borders of modern Yorkshire and areas west.

Although the Vikings expanded their territory in England, which would be known as Danelaw, much of the country remained English land. The Kingdom of Jorvik was the only true Viking territory established in mainland England. The kingdom flourished, and the Viking established trade routes with North-West Europe, the British Isles, the Middle East and the Mediterranean.

The kingdom was founded by Dane Halfdan Ragnarsson in 875, and Danish kings ruled the region for quite some time. What is modern day Yorkshire would be passed down to Norwegian rulers.

Eric Bloodaxe, former king of Norway, was the last independent Viking king in Jorvik.

The Kingdom of Jorvik lasted for 100 years before being overtaken by the Kingdom of Wessex. Yorkshire was once again part of Northumbria. The Kings of England were reportedly respectful of the Norse customs in Yorkshire, and allowed the local aristocracy to establish the local laws.

In the weeks before the Battle of Hastings, which took place in 1066 AD, King Harold II of England was distracted in Yorkshire when his brother Tostig joined forces with the King of Norway. Harold Hardrada, the King of Norway, and Tostig attempted to take over the north.

The King marched north, where the two armies met and fought in the Battle of StormfordBridge.

Hardrada and Tostig were both killed, and their armies were defeated. But Harold was forced to march armies south where William the Conqueror had landed.

The King was defeated, ushering in the Norman conquest of England.

The people of northern England rebelled against the Normans in 1069 AD, putting Sweyn II of Denmark in charge of their cause. The Normans burnt York to the ground before they could take it back.

The Harrying of the North followed, during which domestic animals, crops and farming tools were all burned. Villagers were murdered without a second thought, and many villages were burnt to ashes.

In the winter that followed, many of the families that survived starved to death. Thousands of others died of cold and hunger. It is estimated that more than 100,000 people died from hunger.

Yorkshire would go on to be prosperous, but the county’s haunted past will not be forgotten.

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