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[[File:Life of St. Edmund, Barbarians Invading England, c 1130.JPG|thumbnail|
250px|left|Figure 1. The time of St. Edmund, who was an East Anglia king who died at the hands of the Viking invasions of England.]]
The Viking, or more accurately Danish and Norsemen, invasions of England in the 9th century CE (865) helped lead to what ultimately would become the united country of England. Before 865, England was divided into four or sometimes more countries, populated by Angles and Saxons (or Anglo-Saxons). Wales and Cornwall were also occupied by the remaining Britons, who were the pre-Roman population of the British Isles.
[[File:18205178532 3b824328aa b.jpg|thumbnail|300px|left|Figure 2. Statues of King Athelstan, who first united England.]]
What is clear is that all of the kingdoms that became England either willingly joined Wessex or eventually joined after a relatively brief power struggle. In effect, the invasions and occupation by the Danes and Norse led to many Anglo-Saxons to see Wessex as the unifying force the country needed in order to effectively deal with major invasions such as that witnessed in 865. While Alfred did call himself "King of the English speaking people," he was able to transplant this idea to his son and grandson, where the idea of England as a unified state soon became state policy in the reconquest and propaganda that justified why Wessex now controlled the former Anglo-Saxon states (Figure 2). Many, particularly in Mercia, did not want Wessex to rule over all England; however, the continued threat of Danish and Norse invasions, including those that occurred later, did help rally people to Wessex, weakening opposition to Wessex (Figure 2).
Thus, it was the weakness of the defeated kingdoms and Wessex proving that it could stand against Norse and Danish invasions that helped to ultimately unify the land in what became known as the land of the Angles (i.e., England). Alfred may have harbored interests in unifying the state even without the invasions of the Danes and Norse; however, this would have been very difficult, as it would have required fighting the three other kingdoms. The Danes and Norse had weakened potential enemies for Alfred, while also making themselves as a rallying cry for Anglo-Saxons to unite under the banner of Wessex. The Viking invasions of England created an opportunity to unify the country that could not have easily existed otherwise.<ref>For more on how the Viking invasions both united the English and weakened rival kingdoms, see: Stafford, P. (1989) <i>Unification and conquest: a political and social history of England in the tenth and eleventh centuries.</i> London ; New York : New York, NY, E. Arnold ; Distributed in the USA by Routledge, Chapman, and Hall.</ref>
[[Category:British History]] [[Category:European History]]