Danegeld: Survival and Demise

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And that is called paying the Dane-geld;

But we've proved it again and again,

That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld

You never get rid of the Dane.#

Poet Rudyard Kipling outlined it best with his poem Dane-geld, first published in 1911. Even though it was written as an allegory for the relations of humanity at large, the specificity of the source demands elucidation in regard to how such a metaphor even came into existence. While no society plans for its own destruction or subjugation intentionally, the realities of such actions are a matter of historical fact. One such instance, and indeed perhaps the most pivotal of all such events for the English-speaking world, is the creation of the Dane-geld in pre-Norman Britain and how the efficiency of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in collecting the national tax led directly to their downfall. There were indeed other factors involved in the success of the Norman Conquest in the latter half of the eleventh century but without this pre-existing, self-sufficient means of funding, which was used to fuel William the Conqueror's military machine in post-1066 campaigns, it is doubtful that the immediate impact of the invasion - the nearly complete replacement of the Anglo-Saxon hierarchy with Norman rulers - and the devastation of northern England, through the genocidal acts of the Harrying of the North, could have been achieved. This essay will outline the process by which the Dane-geld came into existence, its impact on Anglo-Saxon society and its immediate use by Norman invaders in taking this preexisting system and turning it against its creators in order to subjugate and control them in what would prove to be the most important invasion in the western world un...

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Primary Sources

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. London: Everyman Press, 1912. Translation by Rev. James

Ingram (London, 1823), with additional readings from the translation of Dr. J.A. Giles (London, 1847). Online:

Dane-geld, A.D. 980-1016. Kipling, Rudyard. First published in 1911. Online:
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