The Treaty of Wedmore, which is also sometimes known as the Treaty of Chippenham, represents the agreement made between Alfred ruler of Wessex, often known as 'the Great' and his Danish Viking counterpart Guthrum after the latter's defeat in the Battle of Edington in the year 878.
It is one of the very few surviving documents from the reign of Alfred, and represents Alfred's achievement in successfully preserving the existence of Wessex (and therefore, in the long run, the notion of England itself) in the face of repeated and severe Viking insurgency. It also however represents the limitations of his achievment, as it recognised the fact that he lacked the necessary resources and support to drive out the Danes from the whole of England. From the signing of the Treaty, until the coming of the Normans there was to be a clear division between England proper and the Danelaw of north and east of the country.
The Treaty of itself, did not bring peace, it was merely an agreement between Alfred and one Viking ruler; other Viking warbands continued to raid and harass the Anglo-Saxons. It granted Alfred a breathing space which enabled him to construct a navy, built new fortified towns, so that the kingdom was better able to withstand the next assault.
The Treaty of Wedmore
This is the peace that King Alfred and King Guthrum, and the witan of all the English nation, and all the people that are in East Anglia, have all ordained and with oaths confirmed, for themselves and for their descendants, as well forborn as for unborn, who reck of God's mercy or of ours.
1. Concerning our land boundaries: up on the Thames, and then up on the Lea, and along the Lea unto its source, then straight to Bedford, then up on the Ouse unto Watling Street.
2. Then is this: if a man be slain, we estimate all equally dear, English and Danish, at eight half marks of pure gold; except the ceorl who resides on rented land and their freedmen; they also are equally dear, either at two hundred shillings.
3. And if a king's thegn be accused of manslaying, if he dare clear himself on oath, let him do that with twelve king's thegns. If any one accuse that man who is of less degree than the king's thegn, let him clear himself with eleven of his equals and with one king's thegn. And so in every suit which may be more than four mancuses. And if he dare not, let him pay for it threefold, as it may be valued.
4. And that every man know his warrantor in acquiring slaves and horses and oxen.
5. And we all ordained on that day that the oaths were sworn, that neither bond nor free might go to the host without leave, no more than any of them to us. But if it happen that from necessity any of them will have traffic with us or we with them, with cattle and with goods, that is to be allowed in this wise: that hostages be given in pledge of peace, and as evidence whereby it may be known that the party has a clean back.