February 28, 2021|Reports

“The Vikings” – Dr Imogen Corrigan

Imogen Corrigan gave an impressive and authoritative talk on these long haired tourists from Scandinavia to about 60 members and visitors of Wickham History Society on 23rd February.  Imogen confirmed that, despite some recent rethinking, they did do all the things they are infamous for and traded on their reputation for ferocity to intimidate opposition in war and strengthen their demands for ‘dane geld’ to buy them off.

In 980 Viking raiders sacked Lindisfarne monastery in an act that sent shock waves round Europe.  Even Emperor Charlemagne contributed to the ransom paid for the monks, and this well-intentioned act misfired as the Vikings realised they could not only gain plunder but ransom too.

Their presence in England was just one small part of the explosion of Viking influence across the world.  They were colonists in Newfoundland in 1000, and created what is Russia today, trading as far as  Constantinople.  Ironically it was the conversion of the Rus’ people to Christianity that led to the cutting off of their lucrative trade with the new Islamic caliphates, which then in turn inspired the descent on wealthy Anglo-Saxon England, and its defenceless monasteries, to make up the shortfall of gold and silver.

Although history is usually written by the victors, the Vikings are an exception to the rule.  With a limited runic written language, they could not compete with the Christian monks whom they had treated so badly.  From the little information that survives, we do know Viking women managed estates and had the right to divorce their husbands, and there may have been Viking women warriors in the Rus’.

This was a martial society: the word ‘nothing’ has Viking roots, meaning a man who does not fight and has no honour.  Loyalty was based on personal allegiance to a ‘king’, provided he could provide gold and silver.  It was the gold and silver of Anglo-Saxon England that led, despite Alfred’s earlier successes, to the Viking conquest by King Canute that preceded the arrival of William the Conqueror (another Viking descendant) in 1066.

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