The Vikings in Wales

The Vikings in Wales

By Henry Loyn

Dorothea Coke memorial lecture, 1976

Published for University College London by the Viking Society for Northern Research

Introduction: My chosen title is ‘The Vikings in Wales’,  a general title but one that gives opportunity to discuss two problems that haunt all of us interested in Scandinavian expansion in the early Middle Ages: the problem of chronology and the deeper problem of the existence or nature of settlement. These matters are never easy though palpably easier in some area than in others. Wales lies probably in the middle range of difficulty, straightforward in some respects, very difficult and obscure indeed in others. We are freed from one common worry. There is no absence of material, not even a grave shortage given the limitations of the period. A native chronicle tradition is preserved by the mid-tenth century in the form of the St. David’s Annales Cambriae, and helps to give a reasonable written outline of activities. Lives of saints preserve some valuable material. From outside Wales the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Irish Annals, and – at a later period – the whole mainstream of Anglo-Norman historiographical writing show spasmodic but emergetic interest in Welsh affairs. The Life of Gruffydd ap Cynan stands alone and is unique and in importance for the insight it gives into affairs in Wales and Ireland in the late eleventh and early twelfth centuries.

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