The Age of the Vikings

Overview

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), and Ukraine/Russia.
  • In 1960, archaeologists in Canada found Viking longboats in Newfoundland, thus confirming what the Icelandic sagas had long stated, that Vikings had reached North America centuries before Columbus “sailed the ocean blue”.
  • In many ways, the Vikings were like the Mongols of the western hemisphere. They were famous for the 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.
  • The Vikings continue to fascinate us in literature, music and popular culture—from the Norse sagas and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow to Wagner and even cartoons like “Hagar the Horrible.”

Exploration Questions

  • How did the Vikings influence the history of Europe?
  • Why do you think we continue to be fascinated with the Vikings and their mystique?

Reflective Questions

  • Have you ever been to Scandinavia? Iceland? Newfoundland? What were your impressions?

More to Explore

Books for Further Reading

  • 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.
    Click here to order