England in the early and late medieval periods was one of the wealthiest and best-governed kingdoms in Europe. However its commercial opportunities were significantly limited as a result of the devastating Viking raids and invasions between the 9th and 11th centuries. During this time, England was absorbed into other kingdoms and territories, including Cnut’s North Sea Empire and William of Normandy’s French duchy.
The link with France established during this period was especially important for England’s future during the Middle Ages:
England no longer looked to Scandinavia and the North Sea for trade. Continental Europe was becoming more prosperous and trade networks were established between English wool merchants who exported to Normandy, Flanders and France.
As the Norman conquerors began to view themselves as the natural kings of England, trade increased. King Henry II acquired large territories in France and his Angevin Empire increased the opportunities for English merchants to trade with a variety of European merchants. The Angevin Empire created the opportunity for trade even beyond Europe and so, during this period, exotic and expensive goods, including silk and spices, from the Middle East were regularly traded in England’s major towns and cities.