The Danegeld was an English tax raised to pay off Viking raiders (usually led by the Danish king) to save the land from being ravaged by the raiders.
The first payment, of 10,000 pounds of silver, was made in 991 following the Viking victory at the Battle of Maldon in Essex, when King Aethelred "The Unready was advised by Archbishop Sigeric of Canterbury and the aldermen of the south-western provinces to buy off the Vikings rather than continue the armed struggle.
In 994 the Danes, under King Sweyn Forkbeard and Olaf Trygvason, returned and laid siege to London. They were once more bought off, and the amount of silver paid impressed the Danes with the idea that it was more profitable to extort payments from the English than to take whatever booty they could plunder.
Further payments were made in 1002, and especially in 1007 when Aethelred bought two years peace with the Danes for 36,000 pounds of silver. In 1012, following the capture and murder of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the sack of Canterbury, the Danes were bought off with another 48,000 pounds of silver.
In 1016 Sweyn Forkbeard's son, Canute, became King of England. After two years he felt sufficiently in control of his new kingdom to the extent of being able to pay off all but 40 ships of his invasion fleet, which were retained as a personal bodyguard, with a huge Danegeld of 72,000 pounds of silver collected nationally, plus a further 10,500 pounds of silver collected from London.
It is estimated that the total amount of money paid amounted to some sixty million pence -- more Anglo-Saxon pence of this period have been found in Denmark than in England.