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Alfred the Great and Æthelred II ‘the Unready”: the Viking Wars in England, c. 850-1016

Richard Abels

United States Naval Academy, July (2009)


Vikings were Germanic raiders/traders who came from Scandinavia. The meaning of the word ‘viking’ is obscure; some have derived it from the Norse word for fjords, others think that it refers to the men of the Viken region of Norway around Oslo, still others have argued that it meant pirate (its meaning in Anglo-Saxon). The verb ‘to go viking’ meant to engage in piracy. Vikings are best thought of as pirate bands, not unlike the buccaneers of the Spanish Main in the seventeenth century. Norwegians ravaged northern Britain, islands, Iceland, Ireland and France.Danes ravaged Francia and settled in northern England in the second half of the ninth century. Swedes established trading centers in Russia (Novgorod, Kiev) and even went so far as to attackConstantinople ca. 860. The ‘nationality’ of a viking warband was defined by its leaders. The members of a viking boat, however, could well be a heterogeneous lot. In late ninth-centuryIreland, for example, some natives decided that they would rather be predators than prey and joined viking bands. They became known as the ‘Irish foreigners.’ (There are a number of interesting academic links on the internet.)

Click here to read this article from the United States Naval Academy

(via Medievalists)