Danelaw (dānˈlôˌ) [key], originally the body of law that prevailed in the part of England occupied by the Danes after the treaty of King Alfred with Guthrum in 886. It soon came to mean also the area in which Danish law obtained; according to the treaty, the boundary between England and Danelaw ran "up the Thames, and then up the Lea … to its source, then straight to Bedford and then up the Ouse to Watling Street." The Danelaw comprised four main regions: Northumbria; the areas around and including the boroughs of Lincoln, Nottingham, Derby, Leicester, and Stamford; East Anglia; and the SE Midlands. Though the English kings soon brought the Danelaw back under their rule, they did not attempt to interfere with the laws and customs of the area, many of which survived until after the Norman Conquest.
See D. Whitelock, The Norman Conquest: its Setting and Impact (1968); F. M. Stenton, The Free Peasantry of the Northern Danelaw (1926, repr. 1969) and Anglo-Saxon England (3d ed. 1971).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.