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About Me:I'm a graduate student studying International Criminal Law and first started writing for King's News almost 4 years ago! My hobbies include reading, travelling and charity work. I cover many categories but my favourite articles to write are about mysteries of the ancient world, interesting places to visit, the Italian language and animals!
Having conquered all of England bar Wessex the Vikings ruled the rest of England for many years until they were eventually defeated and pushed out. As in Scandinavia the Vikings, however fearsome, were mainly humble farmers by trade and so did not present a united force in England but rather groups of villages and plots of land hence it was a slow process for the surviving English kingdoms, instigated by Alfred in Wessex, to drive them out. You can see then that although they did raid, the Vikings weren’t necessarily as savage as some history books would have you believe, but rather were forced into raids in order to secure new and more fertile land in comparison to their hard life in Scandinavia. They created a community and sense of culture in England and indeed many of their customs remained in England long after the final Viking king was driven from its shores. They lived and had families here so much of their DNA can even be found in English people today.
It wasn’t just Europe that the Vikings influenced though. As great seafarers and explorers they founded Iceland in the year 827 and created a strong and proud society there despite the difficult conditions. In fact this new Viking society in Iceland formed ‘the Althing’, a group of the island’s chieftains who met annually and discussed progress, problems and the future of the nation’s society. In fact the Althing is the first account we have of any form of parliament, many years before Oliver Cromwell led parliament to overthrow the crown in England. Furthermore, we know that at least some of the Vikings were literate as our first accounts of their history from their own perspective derive from the settlers in Iceland. They recorded many deeds and tales in the Icelandic sagas which are still studied today and show us another side of Viking life that proves they were far more than just bloodthirsty warriors and raiders.
Another symbol of maturity and strength from the Vikings in Iceland is rooted within religion. When much of the rest of Europe had converted to Christianity the Vikings remained fierce in their belief of their pagan gods for many years; fearsome deities such as Thor, Loki and Odin (some of the better known gods). When Christianity did eventually reach the Vikings Iceland was split virtually half and half between pagans and Christians and, after a meeting of the Althing they adopted Christianity to prevent civil war and help maintain trade relations with other Christian societies.
Finally, beyond Iceland, the Vikings should be renowned for their great explorations. Exploring as far as modern day Turkey in the East and North America in the West the Vikings were keen sailors and navigators. Erik the Red left Iceland and discovered Greenland, landing there and creating a society that survived there for several centuries. Given that Greenland is mainly uninhabited today due to its unforgiving climate even despite modern technology is just further credit to the Vikings for surviving there for many generations. Erik’s son Leif went even further and landed in North America, some 500 long years before Christopher Columbus’ supposed discovery of America. They couldn’t settle in America due to hostility from the Native American tribes and given that the Vikings who landed there were relatively small in number. Had they been able to settle there we may well have a very different America from the one we know today! In fact one place they did settle, albeit a small number of them, was Newfoundland off the coast of Canada and the remains of a Viking settlement was discovered there as recently as 1960.
Hopefully then having read these two articles you’ll agree that the Vikings were far more than just warriors and raiders and that they are deserving of a better reputation. If this has sparked your interest why not do some of your own research, register on Kings’ News and write your own article on Viking culture? I look forward to reading them!
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