Why didn’t Mercia take over Northumbria (etc)

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This topic contains 1 reply, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Jamie 2 years, 7 months ago.

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  • #16462


    I was wondering why, given it seemed to be fairly common for various kingdoms to go to war with one another and kill the opposing rulers, why they then generally left again – I'm thinking in particularly of Mercia, which kicked considerable arse in Northumbria and Powys but never installed kings there?Do you think that the general population was really that concerned with who they paid their tribute to that they wouldn't allow Mercia to rule?  I'm not sure that parallels drawn with more recent examples of rebellion against aggressors are valid, given that the poor had very little to win or lose either way - when you're dirt poor and may not last the next winter, you can't be made much worse off by the new guy.  About the one thing that would change is that if Penda (the obvious choice plus one of the few I can remember) owned the whole of Mercia and Northumbria then people living in the border areas would go from being right in the middle of a war zone to not - so they'd have a more peaceful existence.Also, I might have missed it, but why did Wessex and Mercia not clash axes earlier on? - Mercia and East Anglia, did, for instance.  My understanding was that Wessex was similarly quite a valuable prize. Was Wessex just too powerful for the Mercians to risk (with their Frankish friends)?  Or is it just that the only one capable of taking them out was Penda and he didn't tend to start fights?

  • #20405


    Great question.  A big part of it probably has to do with culture and economics.  Culturally, it seems that the early Anglo Saxons weren't interested in annexation as much as they were with subjugation (ie, becoming overkings).  And economically, full annexation would have been really difficult due to the fact that taxation over large portions of land would have been really difficult since taxes were often in the form of food and drink.  So forcing your neighbors to provide tribute, while leaving the hard work of actual tax collection and governing, was probably preferable.

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