Why did the Vikings invade York?

York is reknown for having close links to the Vikings. When you visit the city, you’ll notice an abundance of Viking street names and places. The Vikings invaded York in the 9th century but why did they choose to invade York? Why didn’t they choose another city in the UK? The answer lies in the realms of Geography and Economics.

In the middle of the 9th Century, the rule of the Anglo-Saxons in York came to an end. As the city was very prosperous, it made it an easy target for Viking invaders who attacked from the north east shores of the country. The distance from the shores where the Vikings landed to York was relatively short hence York was a great target for them.

Another reason that the Vikings probably chose York as their first target was because at that time there was civil war in Northumbria and they thought that this would make invasion easier.

In the 9th century, York was the capital of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria and at the time was the only town north of the Humber; it may not have had a large population but it had a cathedral, a monastery famous for its teaching and attracted merchants from many countries to trade.

The Viking invasion of York took place on November 1st 866 AD and was led by Ivar The Boneless. The city was captured and made the capital of the Viking territory in Northern England. The Vikings changed the name of the city from the Saxon Eoforwic to a more Danish “Jorvik”. In 868 the Viking army left York but had to return many times to deal with rebellions until 875 where they firmly held the city for the next 80 years.

Although the given name “Jorvik” didn’t survive the Viking period, it has been used in recent years to promote tourism in the city such as the popular Jorvik centre. The Danes also left behind many interesting street names based on the suffix “gate” including Micklegate and Skeldergate. (The word gata in Danish means street.)

So, to sum up, the Viking’s invaded York as it was in a great position for them, geographically, and was also a great commercial centre for trade. They only stayed for a few hundred years but their legacy still lives on.