By Jeremy Black (auth.)
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Extra resources for A History of the British Isles
The Welsh rulers of the period spent much of their time in fighting. The rise of Gwynedd under Llywelyn ap Seisyll (d. l023) and his son Gruffudd ap Llywelyn (d. 1063) formed the most important development in the pre-Norman period. Both Llywelyn and Gruffudd had to fight to gain control of Gwynedd and both campaigned in south Wales, most of which was conquered between 1039 and 1055. The length of the process reflected the difficulty of obtaining a decisive 'political' settlement, short of slaying rivals as Gruffudd did twice.
Danish invaders took up winter quarters in south-eastern England: in Thanet in 850 and Sheppey in 854. The 18 A HISTORY OF THE BRITISH ISLES Danish 'Great Army' abandoned operations in northern France and overran East Anglia (865) and Yorkshire (866--7): York was stormed in 866. Wessex, attacked in 871, owed its survival in large part to the determination and skill of King Alfred (871-99), although the struggle was a desperate one and Alfred was nearly crushed in 871 and 878. Wessex's resistance led the Danes to turn on Mercia, which was conquered in 874: King Burgred was defeated at Repton and fled to Rome.
The struggle with the invaders lasted a long time; ultimately, the building of Offa's Dyke in the late eighth century by King Offa of Mercia was to mark the definition of a border and of Wales and England. Nowhere else in the British Isles was a frontier quite so crucial. The advance of the Anglo-Saxons and later the Normans was to help condition Welsh history. Indeed Wales was given its identity by the conquerors in terms of otherness: the Saxons used Walas or Wealas to describe the Britons and it meant both serfs and foreigners.
A History of the British Isles by Jeremy Black (auth.)