Who were the Vikings? by Rob Shackleford
For more Blogs on Vikings, check out the links of previous Viking below:
Vikings were a people some called Norsemen – North Men. They were residents of scattered farming and fishing communities that existed in the far north of Europe in what is now known as Denmark, Norway, Sweden and perhaps Finland. This was long before they became unified nations.
These North Men developed significant advances in shipping technology in the 7th and 8th centuries that meant their boats were powered by sails, rather than solely by oars. Made of overlapping planks (‘clinker-built’), these longships were swift, shallow-drafted boats that could sail the tempestuous North Seas and yet safely navigate coastal and inland waters and easily land on beaches.
Exactly what first compelled bands of men to follow their local chieftain across the North Sea in these longships is unclear. It may have been localised overpopulation, as farming plots became subdivided to the point where families could barely eke out a living; or political instability, as chieftains fought for dominance. It also may have been news brought home by merchants and fishermen of riches to be found in trading settlements further west. Probably it was a combination of all three.
In 793 the first significant Viking raiding party hit the isolated yet important Celtic Christian community of Lindisfarne, off the northeast coast of England. Within a few years, Viking bands also struck Scotland (794), Ireland (795) and France (799). Thus began what historians generally describe as The Viking Age.
Raids undertaken by these previously unknown, seaborne raiders sent shockwaves throughout Europe and the known world.
Most English seemed to have turned their back on the sea as they became more settled. Monasteries were established on islands, peninsulas, river mouths and cliffs. Isolated communities were less susceptible to interference and the politics of the heartland. The amazement of the English at the raids from the sea must have been matched by the amazement of the raiders at such vulnerable, wealthy and unarmed settlements.
“Never before has such terror appeared in Britain as we have now suffered from a pagan race … The heathens poured out the blood of saints around the altar, and trampled on the bodies of saints in the temple of God, like dung in the streets.”
So who were these raiders?
The term Viking, has its origins in an Old Norse word with meanings including: to range from raiding, to explore, and of course – piracy. So Viking, essentially means pirate.
For more on the Viking Age, see:
About the author:
Hi, I’m Rob Shackleford. I am author of a number of novels, though so far only Traveller Inceptio and Traveller Probo have been officially published. As Traveller Inceptio looks at the fates of modern historical researchers sent to the early 11th Century Saxon world, Vikings do feature.
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