A history of vikings

According to this theory, the word simply described persons from this area, and it is only in the last few centuries that it has taken on the broader sense of early medieval Scandinavians in general.

A history of vikings

Over time, the word viking became synonymous with piracy, and the Vikings garnered a reputation as brutal plunderers that endured for a thousand years.

While ruthless, Viking attacks were more about survival than subjugation, historians now say. What did the Vikings actually do in their attacks into Europe?

Well, the attacks were very diverse. For the most part, the raids were totally independent. They were not the result of national armies or navies moving down into Europe, but rather the actions of individual Viking chieftains who grouped together followers and had one or maybe several boats.

Occasionally, as in some of the invasions of Normandy, they organized whole flotillas and made a purposeful kind of attack, but generally they were much more individualistic. They had to live off the land, so they drove people out and took whatever money and other valuables people had.

And, of course, the church centers and monasteries like Lindisfarne [a monastery in Northern England that Vikings pillaged in A. What must it have been like for the monks at Lindisfarne to be suddenly attacked out of the blue?

A history of vikings

For them, the attack represented the vengeance of Satan on the Christian outposts of Europe. It was a terrible event, because the monks and the church centers had set themselves up in small, fortress-like places where they could pursue their studies and writings in peace, and it was an invasion of the sanctitude of Christ and their religion.

This was totally unlike anything that had happened before. There had been outlaws, but to have shiploads of brawny characters show up at your isolated, supposedly sacred center, this was the ultimate horror.

Did they kill a lot of people in their various raids? In many cases they did. I think they were relatively ruthless, but remember, this was a ruthless age with far more than just peaceful farmers living peaceful lives.

All sorts of things were going on in the British Isles and mainland Europe, including constant battles between rival princes vying for kingship and control of local regions.

The Vikings were just another crowd, though a crowd that was non-Christian and had no compunction about killing churchmen or women or children.

They needed slaves, they needed people to help row, they needed people to help maintain their lifestyle. They regularly set up small villages and centers where they could overwinter or stay for months at a time, and they needed people to help run these establishments. So I think if you were able to put yourself back into the camp of a raiding Viking group, you probably would find Italians and Spaniards and Portuguese and French and Russians—a very diverse group built around a core of Vikings from a particular region, say, southern Denmark or an Oslo fjord.

A typical Viking settlement would not have contained blond, blue-eyed Norsemen alone, but a cosmopolitan group of inhabitants. Only in the past 20 years or so have archeological and other studies begun to provide information that fleshes out and in some cases contradicts or even replaces the historical record.

These findings are giving us a totally different view of the Vikings.

The western seas, Vinland, and Ireland

We see them archeologically not as raiders and pillagers but as entrepreneurs, traders, people opening up new avenues of commerce, bringing new materials into Scandinavia, spreading Scandinavian ideas into Europe.

This contrasts sharply with the early accounts. Are the Icelandic sagas as unreliable? The Icelandic sagas are phenomenal documents that for hundreds of years provided everything we knew about the Vikings.

If we were interested in Vinland [the Viking name for a far-off land they visited, which scholars now believe is eastern Canada in and around Newfoundland], it was the sagas. If we were interested in the history of the kings of Norway, it was the sagas. But then, beginning with the discovery of Viking burial ships a century ago, archeology started to poke its nose into Viking affairs, and today, excavations have become an invaluable new source of information.

Scholars have gone back to the sagas and asked, "How much of this is history? How much just the elaboration of family storytelling? The sagas were compiled in the 13th century and later based on stories that originated as early as or years before that. This is a long time for an oral tradition to be handed down.

Even the Vinland sagas, which chronicle events around A. Some now believe the sagas are basically family stories relating the ancestry, say, of Erik or of Gudrid and her family. Too far from home, too many dangers.

We know from the sagas that they lost people, and they probably lost ships. We have to remember that this was in the early days of the Greenland colony, which had only a small number of settlers itself, and to have so much of its resources directed toward a perilous new enterprise was not sensible.

This material dates to perhaps as much as years after the initial Vinland voyages.

Brutality in a brutal age

We seem to have a time period that began with the Vinland contact episode, explorations, and so forth, and then after the society in Greenland got rolling and people were settled, walrus-ivory trade with Europe started to be really important. Probably more than any other factor, this stimulated the continuous western orientation of the Greenland Norse, not only up into the Greenland walrus-hunting territories but across the Davis Strait to Ellesmere and Baffin islands and south into Labrador.

These are areas where the Vikings were exploring and trading, and where native populations were trading Viking materials through their own trade networks.Overview: The Vikings, to The story of the Vikings in Britain is one of conquest, expulsion, extortion and reconquest.

Their lasting legacy was the formation of the independent kingdoms. Vikings History—Vikings as Traders Viking traders went west as far as Newfoundland in the New World, and East as far as the Volga River, down to Constantinople.

When the Vikings left their homelands in the beginning of the Viking Age in the s, they didn’t just go to raid and loot. In Normandy, which had been settled by Vikings, the Viking ship became an uncontroversial regional symbol.

In Germany, awareness of Viking history in the 19th century had been stimulated by the border dispute with Denmark over Schleswig-Holstein and the use . A History of the Vikings [Gwyn Jones] on initiativeblog.com *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers.

An utterly splendid book, quite the most brilliantly written, balanced, and explanative general work on the Vikings ever to appear in English or in any language. -- Scandinavian Studies The subject of this book is the Viking realms/5(64). Viking, also called Norseman or Northman, member of the Scandinavian seafaring warriors who raided and colonized wide areas of Europe from the 9th to the 11th century and whose disruptive influence profoundly affected European history.

A history of vikings

These pagan Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish warriors were probably prompted to undertake their raids by a combination of factors ranging from overpopulation at . Aug 21,  · Watch video · Viking armies (mostly Danish) conquered East Anglia and Northumberland and dismantled Mercia, while in King Alfred the Great of Wessex became the only king to decisively defeat a Danish army in England.