Danegeld: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about the Danegeld.

  • The Danegeld was a tax paid to Viking raiders, to stop them from attacking the coast and invading. It might be viewed as a form of protection money, although the literal translation was ‘Dane tribute’.
  • In England the tax was first collected in 868. It became a regular tax under the reign of King Ethelred and was widely collected until the 12th century.
  • In 991, a tax of 3,300 kg of silver was collected to buy off the Vikings..
  • A form of the Danegeld may have existed in Brittany, France, as well as in England. On one occasion, the local king paid with 500 cattle, instead of money or gold.
  • The Baltic states also paid a form of Danegeld. The system extended as far east as Russia, and tribes in the far north of Scandinavia paid with animal fur.
  • During the Norman period, the Danegeld was based on the amount of land a person owned. 1162 was the last year the system was recorded on a pipe roll (a medieval accounting system).
  • In 1163, the Danegeld was replaced by the plough tax. It was assumed a man owned more land if he had more ploughs, and therefore paid more taxes.
  • It is estimated that a total of 60 million pennies was used during Anglo-Saxon times as payment to the Vikings. One of the largest single payments was 27,000 kg of silver.
  • Rune stones can be found all over Sweden, commemorating the Danegeld that certain warriors received. The heavy stones, which date from the 11th century are embedded in the ground.
  • Today the word is used, mainly by politicians, to criticise a payment that is forced from someone, or a payment that someone has been persuaded to make. The term was used in the 1930s to describe Neville Chamberlain‘s appeasement policy towards Adolf Hitler.

What next? Learn more about the Anglo-Saxons, the Vikings and the Normans.

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