I would like to thank Mr Barris for introducing me to this assignment from which I have learnt a lot and enjoyed doing.
The Vikings impact on Europe in the Middle Ages
The Vikings had a great impact on Europe during the Middle Ages. Their mighty warriors disrupted many peaceful European countries. However, Europe also benefited through the impact of the Vikings as a result of the new technology they spread around Europe while trading and settling. The Vikings were also great explorers and established many settlements throughout Europe.
The Vikings’ impact on Europe started from the time when they began their raids. The first recorded Viking raid according to the Anglo-Saxon chronicle was in about 789 when three Norwegian ships attacked Portland, which is located in the British Isles. In 793 the Vikings raided a monastery in Lindisfarne. They murdered many monks, destroyed churches and took its treasures. The British were shocked and outraged by these raids. This is expressed by a letter by an English scholar named Alcuin, which was recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and printed in The Vikings as follows, “For nearly 350 years we and our forefathers have inhabited this most lovely land, and never before has such terror appeared in Britain as we have now suffered from the pagan race; nor was it thought that such an attack could have been made from the sea.” After this many other raids struck Europe. Most of these raids were targeted at monasteries, which held important literatures. The monasteries were also places of learning and the raids disrupted education in many parts of Europe.These raids had a tremendous impact on Europe in the Middle Ages as demonstrated through Alcuin’s reaction.
Furthermore, the Vikings broke up the existing power structure in England and Scotland strengthening the Scots. The Penguin Historical Atlas Of The Vikings describes this as following “The Viking attacks on the Picts, the Northumbrians, and the Strathclyde Britons shifted the balance of power in favour of the Scots allowing them to unify the country.” Thus, without the Vikings, England and Scotland would not have been unified states. During the 9th century the Vikings expanded their raids to France. France was in the Carolingian empire, which had internal problems. The Vikings took advantage of this and started raiding France. The Viking raids in France created the Duchy of Normandy. As well as this they fastened the collapse of the Carolingian empire. Through these raids, the Vikings changed the existing hierarchy, which had a significant impact on Europe in the Middle Ages.
The Vikings were not only raiders, they were great explorers and established settlements in many of the countries they invaded. In about 860 the Vikings discovered Iceland. The Vikings describes this by quoting the following extract from the Landnamabok “Once upon a time, men – some say it was Naddod the Viking – set out from Norway bound for the Faroes but drifted into the Atlantic and found a large new island.” The Vikings began to settle in Iceland in 870. The Vikings also discovered and established settlements in Greenland. Through their exploration the Vikings expanded Europe’s knowledge of their surroundings.
Evenmore, the Vikings settled in many parts of the countries they raided. They rebuilt many of the towns they invaded. Thus, making up for the damage caused by the raids. However, two towns in England, Quentovic and Dorestad, were destroyed due to the raids. As well as this, they established settlements in many unpopulated areas of England. They also introduced new farming methods and other techniques throughout Europe. Furthermore, they introduced their revolutionary boat making techniques to Europe. The following extract of King Olaf Tryggvason’s Saga from The Penguin History Atlas Of The Vikings describes the Viking ships’ superiority, “The winter after King Olaf came from Halogaland he had a great vessel built at Ladehammer, which was larger than any ship in the country.” The Viking settlements introduced many new, effective innovations, which in turn helped develop Europe in the Middle Ages.
Moreover, trade played a major role in the Viking expansion as many trades ended up as raids. However, the Vikings established many trade routes throughout Europe. They also set up many trade centres. As well as this, craftsmen and merchants went to England, Germany and other countries to barter their goods. These trades were usually only performed once or twice every year. However, these craftsmen introduced many new techniques in working with metals, wood and other materials. Other than this the Vikings traded raw materials such as timber, dried fish, honey, furs and salt. In return for this the Vikings got, cloths, pottery, iron bars, and clothes. These trades boosted the European economy through out the Middle Ages.
The Vikings impact is still present today. Many words from their vocabulary are used in English every day. Their raids significantly changed Europe. If it wasn’t for their exploration Iceland might be uninhabited. As well as this their settlements strengthened many countries. Finally, their trading improved the European economy. These events and acts significantly impacted on Europe in the Middle Ages.
Reconstruction of a Viking age trading ship
The Vikings- Michael Gibson
The Penguin Historical Atlas Of The Vikings- John Haywood
The Viking World- Philippa Wingate and Dr Anne Millard
Vikings- John D. Clare
The Vikings Lord of the Seas- Yves Cohat
The World Book Encyclopedia (U-V) – World Book Inc
Britannica CD 2000