Although Viking raiders and warriors certainly earned their reputation for brutality, most of the Old Norse people lived rather mundane domestic lives. They were largely subsistence farmers who traded for what they could not produce, and when prospects seemed better elsewhere, they moved to new areas. Sometimes they created new settlements in previously uninhabited lands, such as Iceland, but most of the time, they were the new kids on the block. You might be surprised at how well they got along with their new neighbours.
These animated maps show the development of Scandinavia over the last 1,500 years or so. Different maps focus on different regions and sometimes different time periods, but you can see just how much the population changed over time.
Dragonboats, east! The Rus, the Old Norse settlers for whom Russia is named, seem to have largely originated from Sweden and settled in areas of Eastern Europe. They lived and intermarried with the Slavic peoples, and sailed the Volga River and other major arteries to trade with the Islamic Caliphate and Byzantine Empire.
This documentary looks at the movements of the Vikings, both east into Russia and Ukraine and west to Iceland, Greenland, and North America (“Vinland”), as well as the shipbuilding technology that made these extraordinary migrations possible.
There’s little evidence that clearly indicates that women in Old Norse societies were warriors, but there’s plenty of evidence that they migrated with their male counterparts to establish new settlements.
While English may not be the hardest language to learn, it certainly is one of the weirdest, and one of the reasons for this is … wait for it … the Vikings.
Yes, the Vikings came to England to kick some Anglo-Saxon arse, but in the end they struck a deal that created the Danelaw. While the Vikings imposed their laws in this region, they neither expelled the existing population nor imposed the Old Norse language on them. Instead, the Vikings learned Old English and the resulting changes (which survive in modern English) show just how deeply they integrated into Anglo-Saxon society.
England and the Danelaw
Speaking of the Danelaw, here are a few wonderful resources about daily life in the Viking settlements of Britain and the influence they had on the culture of early medieval England.
More links about the Vikings:
- Link Roundup #1: Going A-Viking
- Link Roundup #2: Life and Death in the Viking Age
- Link Roundup #3.1: Viking Women — Daily Life
- Link Roundup #3.2: Viking Women — Witchcraft and Warfare
- Link Roundup #4: Vikings — The Ultimate Immigrants
- Link Roundup #5: Trade in the Viking Age