The history of the Vikings

The history of the Vikings


Invaders, predators, barbarians - the Vikings are often described as warriors whose accomplishments include only the looting and raids. But were they really just violent and ungodly pagans? In this article you will find thea true history of the viking world

 guerrier viking

Before getting to the heart of the matter, we invite you to consult our collection of viking rings: 

bague viking


The people of the north begin the attacks

In 793, terror fell on the coasts of the Northumbria as armed looters attacked the defenseless St Cuthbert monastery in Lindisfarne. The terrified monks watched the invaders leave with a mine of treasure and a few captives. It was the first raid recorded by the Vikings, Scandinavian sea pirates which would attack the coastal communities of Northwestern Europe for more than two centuries. They have built a reputation as fierce warriors without faith or law.


This image was magnified by those who wrote about the Viking attacks - in other words, their victims. Anglo-Saxon cleric Alcuin of York wrote dramatically about the Lindisfarne raid : "The church was splashed with the blood of the priests of God, stripped of all its adornments ... given as prey to the pagan peoples".

Yet despite waging destructive and very violent attacks on churches and in large countryside, the Vikings were part of a complex and sophisticated Scandinavian culture. In addition to being looters, they were traders, explorers sending ships across the Atlantic to land on the coast of North America five centuries before Columbus; poets composing powerful prose verses, and artists creating works of astonishing beauty.


The reputation of the Vikings as plunderers has long been established this is a cliche as we can today assemble the French with the baguette ...


Viking origin and explorations

The Vikings are from present-day Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Their people were predominantly rural, with almost no city. The vast majority earned their living from agriculture or fishing.

 Advances in maritime technology in the 7th and 8th centuries were such that ships were propelled by sails rather than just oars. These were then added to ships made of overlapping planks to create longships, fast boats could navigate the shallows and land on the beaches. Here is an illustration of Viking longships:

drakkar viking

These Nordic innovations have  allowed the Viking to explore the seas and begin to attack northern Europe. In 793, the first group of raids hit Lindisfarne then other Viking groups struck Scotland in 794, then Ireland's turn in 795. The last country attacked by these Danish warriors was France in 799 .

Their victims did not call them Vikings. This name appeared in the 11th century and possibly deriving from the word vik , which in the language of Old Norse means "entrance". Instead, they were called Dani  which means Danish, Pagani in reference to the word pagan or simply Normanni which means Northern man.


The attacks of the Danish warriors

Initially, the attacks were small scale business, local looting and theft. But in the middle of the IX, they set up camps to spend the winter in the south of England , on the coasts in Ireland and France all along the Seine. These coastal encampments allowed the Vikings to penetrate the interior regions of the countries.

Then in the second half of the 9th century, in Ireland, the Danes established organized and fortified ports. It was the same for France, moreover, in 885, a Viking army besieged and nearly seized the power of Paris.

In Scotland, they established a county in the Orkney Islands and invaded the Shetlands and the Hebrides. 

In England, the great army: the micel here arrived and began the attacks in 865. Halfdan and Ivar the Boneless, the Viking brothers, the warrior brothers, led this army and took the majority of the Saxon kingdoms. Northumbria, then East Anglia, followed by the Kingdom of Mercia. Only Wessex, ruled by King Alfred, resisted. 

At the beginning of the year 878, a section of the micel led by Guthrum sees Alfred by surprise at the royal estate of Chippenham. Alfred narrowly escaped and spent months wandering the Somerset swamps. Everyone believed that the independence of Wessex, and therefore that of England in general, was coming to an end. But to everyone's surprise, Alfred assembled a new army, defeated the Vikings at Edington, and forced Guthrum to accept baptism as a Christian. Thanks to this feat Alfred became the only English sovereign to obtain the nickname "Grand". Here it is in portrait: 


Roi Alfred

For 80 years, England was divided between lands controlled by the kings of Wessex in the south and southwest and an area controlled by the Vikings in the Midlands and north. The Viking kings ruled this region until the last of them, Erik Bloodaxe, was expelled and killed in 954 and the kings of Wessex became the rulers of a united England. Despite this, Viking (and especially Danish) customs have long persisted there.

In the middle of the 11th century, it is the decline of the era and the Viking conquests. The Vikings kept control of large parts of Scotland dubbed the Orkney Islands, a region around Dublin and Normandy in France. They also ruled much of Ukraine and present-day Russia.


The end of the Viking age

Legend likes to say that the age of pillaging and pillaging of the Vikings, which began in Britain with the pillaging of Lindisfarne in 793, ended with thefailure of Harald Hardrada's invasion in 1066.

Yet the Viking influence spread from Middle East to North America and could not be reversed by a single defeat in combat. At the same time as Hardrada was picking up his neck injury putnt fin his career at Stamford Bridge, the Norman Conquest was launched. Its leader and future King of England was William, the great-great-great-grandson of Rollo, a Viking. The Viking Age was therefore never really extinguished as it continued through William.


Did this short story appeal to you and you want to know more? We invite you to watch the video below on the history of these last Viking warriors: