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To what extent did the Vikings deserve this bad press? How would you characterise Viking activity in the 8th, 9th and 10th centuries?

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Introduction

"The pagans from the northern regions came with a naval force to Britain like stinging hornets and ... robbed, tore and slaughtered ... even priests and deacons, and companies of monks and nuns" To what extent did the Vikings deserve this bad press? How would you characterise Viking activity in the 8th, 9th and 10th centuries? Originating from the sparsely populated, barren and virtually resourceless land of the Scandinavian peninsulas, the Vikings set out, in the late 8th century to capture the wealth and resources of their trading partners. Throughout the 8th, 9th and 10th centuries the Northmen brutally killed and destroyed as they conquered much of Europe, earning a reputation as a violent and remorseless people. But were the Vikings really the bloodthirsty barbarians that history has so often portrayed them as? The Attacks throughout Europe certainly were brutal, and created a period of fear throughout Europe, but these attacks were also extremely well planned and organised, while those they attacked were largely unprepared for battle. In addition to this, the Vikings tactics of violence were not unusual or uncommon during that time, and it is unlikely that the Vikings, who had struggled for survival for centuries, would have known any other method of successfully gaining control of the lands they conquered. ...read more.

Middle

This attack perhaps epitomises the negative depiction of the Vikings throughout history, as the event is portrayed as a ruthless attack on an isolated religious centre, where needless destruction occurred, and many unarmed religious men and women were brutally murdered. The Vikings attacked, "like stinging hornets" according to Symeon of Durham, arriving by ship and surrounding the isolated religious centre. Symeon states that the invaders "dug up the altars and seized all the treasures of the holy church". The considerable wealth that was contained within monasteries, combined with the fact that monasteries were deliberately built in isolated locations and had no means of defence, would have made them a very attractive target for the Viking raiders. As the Vikings were polytheistic, and had no affiliation with western religion, the fact that Lindisfarne was a religious centre would have been irrelevant. While those who were attacked saw the attacks as a deliberate invasion of the sanctitude of Christ and their religion, the Vikings saw the monastery only as an easy and profitable target. (Symeon of Durham, "History of the Kings", in Portraits and Documents: the Early Middle Ages, ed. Derek Baker (London: Hutchinson, 1966), 25-30) The negative effects of the Viking era throughout Europe are clearly defined in many texts recounting the Viking invasion beginning in the late 8th century. ...read more.

Conclusion

Sawyer, Kings and Vikings, 1). This willingness by the Vikings to learn the lifestyles of the Europeans suggests that that they harboured no ill will towards those they had conquered, but were focussed primarily on gaining wealth and fertile land. Taking all aspects of the Viking invasions of Europe into consideration, it is probable that the differing views of the Vikings and their intentions all have some element of truth to them. Portrayed throughout history as a race of brutal, barbaric, bloodthirsty and primitive people, the Vikings devastated many areas of Europe as a result of their violent campaigns. However, perhaps the generally accepted 'bad press' is not entirely warranted. These attacks, while undeniably vicious, were not as mindless as portrayed, but were in fact well organised, efficient campaigns carried out to obtain wealth and resources, a tactic that was quite common in the early middle ages, and proved to be quite successful. While the Northmen induced a state of fear throughout Europe for well over a century, there is no evidence to suggest that these violent tactics were anything more than the Viking's attempt to gain free access to the fertile land and wealth of their trading partners throughout Europe. 1 ...read more.

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