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Kenneth Dunn

History 115
Professor Gordon

"Never before has such terror appeared in Britain as we have now suffered from a pagan race. … Behold, the church of St. Cuthbert, spattered with the blood of the priests of God, despoiled of all its ornaments; a place more venerable than all in Britain is given as a prey to pagan peoples." - Alcuin of York, in a letter to Ethelred, King of Northumbria in England.

Vikings were a truly diverse and fascinating people. As they rode the waves of the Atlantic Ocean to many different lands, the warriors struck terror into the hearts of people throughout the many countries they raided. Just the sight of the long, carved beasts at the bows of their ships slinking toward the shores through the mist was enough weaken even the strongest soul. However, while being vicious, inhumane barbarians, a different lifestyle prevailed in their homelands as they faced the same daily struggles as any other society. They were farmers, traders, explorers, and accomplished shipbuilders. There followed laws and customs for which there were punishments if those laws were not followed. They prayed to their Gods and loved their families. In the end, the Vikings traveled over most of the world and left a lasting impression that still excites our imaginations to this day.

Social Structure and Aspects of Everyday Life of the Vikings By Wendy Latimore
Vikings were a fierce and barbaric society….or were they? Most Vikings were farmers and traders. They hunted and fished and grew the foods they needed to sustain their families. According to Ingmar Jansson, a professor of archaeology at Stockholm University in Sweden, "The Norsemen were not just warriors, they were farmers, artists, shipbuilders, and innovators. More than anything, they were excellent traders who connected peoples from Baghdad to Scandinavia to the mainland of North America." (

The definition of the word "Viking" is highly disputed. The definitions range from "pirate", describing the actions of the raiders from Scandinavia; some say it is a reference to the people from Viken (Oslo Fjord); still others use the word to describe the entire ethnic group originating in the Scandinavian countries of Norway and Sweden. ( The word "Viking" is actually derived from "the Old Norse word vikingar" and "is exclusively applied to men, usually those who sailed from Scandinavia in groups to engage in the activities of raiding and trading in Britain, Europe and the East." (
Even though the definition suggests that women could not be Vikings, evidence suggests that women maintained an honored and important role in their society, remaining behind while the men went trading, Viking, or hunting to keep the children and homesteads safe. The women had to ensure that their food would last through the long, cold winters of their homelands. They were expected to have a thorough knowledge of herbs for medicinal purposes and were responsible for the success of the farm while the men were away. ( Fortunately for the women, who married between the ages of 12 and 15 years, "the Vikings lived in large groups" and extended families were common. ( Many generations of several families, sometimes up to 20 people, lived in one lodge and the oldest son was expected to be responsible for the well-being of all who entered his lodge, whether family or slave. His young wife held responsibilities that today's society would never dream of placing on a 15 year old child.

Marriage was more of a business proposition than a matter of love and courtship was "frowned upon by the woman's family as...
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