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In 865 a group of hitherto uncoordinated bands of predominantly Danish Vikings joined together to form a large army and landed in East Anglia.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle described this force as the Great Heathen Army and went onto say that it was led by Ivar the Boneless and Halfdan.

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Map showing area of Scandinavian settlement in the eighth (dark red), ninth (red), tenth (orange) centuries.

Peter Sawyer suggests that most Vikings emigrated due the attractiveness of owning more land rather than the necessity of having it.

However, no rise in population, youth bulge, or decline in agricultural production during this period has been definitively demonstrated.

In 875, after enduring eight decades of repeated Viking raids, the monks fled Lindisfarne, carrying the relics of Saint Cuthbert with them.

An idea that avoids these shortcomings is that the Scandinavians might have practiced selective procreation leading to a shortage of women, and that the Vikings main motive for emigration was to acquire wives, although this would not explain why the Vikings chose to settle in other countries rather than bringing the women back with them to Scandinavia.Genetic studies of the Shetland population suggest that family units consisting of Viking women as well as men were the norm among the migrants to these areas.This may be because areas like Shetland Island, being closer to Scandinavia, were more suitable targets for family migrations, while frontier settlements further north and west were more suitable for groups of unattached male colonizers.Genetic studies of the population in the Western Isles and Isle of Skye also show that Viking settlements were established mainly by male Vikings who mated with women from the local populations of those places.However, not all Viking settlements were primarily male.Longer and more established settlements were formed in Greenland, Iceland, Great Britain and Normandy.

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