Shipbuilding in Medieval Europe

Topics: Longship, Ship, Viking Pages: 4 (1279 words) Published: October 6, 2010
“Shipbuilding is an example of the lively technical advance and of the inventiveness that took place in the Middle Ages, a period traditionally and incorrectly thought to be one of stagnation” (Dictionary of). Historians have imagined, portrayed, and interpreted the Middle Ages in very different ways. One of the most common portrayals of the Middle Ages refers to a period of isolation and fragmentation in Europe. Although this may have been the case in some areas, shipbuilding advanced in Scandinavia under the Vikings. The Vikings invented a narrow ship design that promoted speed and maneuverability. The extraordinary advancements of Viking shipwrights and seafarers allowed the Vikings to become more successful than their counterparts in medieval Europe due to their superior building techniques, capability to perform different tasks, and the speed and maneuverability of their sea vessels.

As the population increased and arable land decreased in Scandinavia, the Vikings were able to set sail from their homeland and successfully acquire more resources due to their impressive ship building techniques. According to historian Richard W. Unger, the Scandinavian rowing barge was the first sea vessel to incorporate a real keel (Dictionary of). The keel allowed the ship to ride high in the water and make little wake, which in turn increased speed. The Vikings also developed a method of overlapping planks, often called clinker or lap strake, in their ships (Viking Ships). This particular method of building allowed the Viking longship to be watertight and also provided internal strength. Unger also mentions that theViking “[s]hipbuilders added internal ribs to give lateral strength and stability”(Dictionary of). The strength that these ribs provided was important because it prevented damage to the hull as the Vikings beached their ships in their notorious raids. In addition, the stability that was provided decreased any chances of flooding in rough, open seas. This...
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