The Age of the Vikings


Join Active Minds as we trace the rise and fall of the Age of the Vikings. We will describe their origins in Scandinavia and how they extended their reach into Europe, North America, and beyond. We will explain the culture and traditions of the Norse Warriors, including their distinctive horned helmets and unique ships. Finally, we will discuss their legacy in modern times (besides the football team).

Key Lecture Points

  • The Vikings were peoples from southern Scandinavia who, beginning in the 8th Century, began to expand their influence upon the British Isles via raids, trading, and eventual settlement.  The Viking expansion was achieved largely because of their innovative longboats, which allowed Viking warriors to sail long distances in high seas, but also take territory via inland waterways.  Over the course of three centuries, Viking chieftans occupied territory in areas from present day Canada to Russia.
  • The Vikings were never a single unified imperial force, such as the Romans or the Mongols.  Instead, the Vikings tended to settle in territory and integrate into the society of the land they initially conquered.  Such was the case in lands such as England, Ireland, Normandy (France), Ukraine and Russia. In many ways, the Vikings were like the Mongols of the western hemisphere.  They were famous for their ferocity, but their legacy is one of creating trade routes over vast territory—trade routes that they themselves did not hold for long, but which other cultures used after the Viking heyday to establish empires.
  • In 1960, archaeologists in Canada found evidence of Viking settlement in Newfoundland, thus confirming what the Icelandic sagas had long stated, that Vikings had reached North America centuries before Columbus.  Archaeological research about the Vikings in North America continues; in 2016, a second site was excavated on Newfoundland suggesting a Viking iron works.

Exploration Questions

  • How did the Vikings influence the history of Europe?
  • Name three ways the Viking legacy can still be seen in our modern world.

Reflective Questions

  • Why do you think we continue to be fascinated with the Vikings and their mystique?
  • Have you ever been to Scandinavia? Iceland? Newfoundland? What were your impressions? What traces did you see of the Viking culture?

More to Explore

Books for Further Reading

  • Oliver, Neil. The Vikings: A New History. Pegasus Books, 2014. 336 pages.  This book describes how the Vikings lived and what drove them to embark on their voyages of discovery.
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  • Winroth, Anders.  The Age of the Vikings. Princeton University Press, 2016. 320 pages. The author captures the innovation and daring of the Vikings without glossing over their ruthlessness.  He discusses the Viking raids as well as their endeavors in commerce, politics, discovery and colonization.
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  • Ferguson, Robert. The Vikings. Viking Adult. 2009. 464 pages. Ferguson describes the history of the Viking age to include its complex culture and its influence on European history.
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  • Mabie, Hamilton Wright. Norse Mythology: Great Stories from the Eddas. Dover Publications. 2002. 96 pages. Seventeen ancient Norse tales ranging from creation of the world to the death of the gods.
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