Franks & Vikings: 476 - 900

Viking Video

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Vikings - 600 to 1200 AD

  • Scandinavian warriors who raided Europe, Eastern Asia, and Eastern North America, Iceland, Greenland Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Russia.
  • Pirates and warriors , traders and colonists.

Viking Politics

  • tribal life in small villages generally ruled by chief who was the strongest/bravest adult man in the village
  • over time tribes begin to unite into larger groups for increased power;
  • Local govt = “thing” - irregular outdoor meeting of adult men to discuss issues.  Ended with a vote to decide action.  Sometimes an “allthing” was held for region wide issues.

Viking Economics

  • agriculture, fishing and raiding of other villages important throughout. 
  • Trade across their conquered land makes them wealthy.
  • Viking ships which were ocean ready and could sail up rivers allowed them to travel and trade across their entire territory.

Viking Religion

  • originally Norse polytheists emphasizing nature worship then slowly converted to simplistic Christianity

Viking Social

  • life was simple and difficult.  Cold, harsh weather and regular violence.  Few schools or churches until late 1000 when Christians enter.  Many Vikings tribes were civilized by the people they “took over”.  (Normans, Anglos, Saxons, and others)
  • Three social classes; jarls, karls, and thralls.
  • The jarls = nobles often with slaves from captured tribes
  • Karls = most Viking families who owned or rented their farms and did most of the work themselves. 
  • Thralls slaves who could buy freedom with hard work or great fighting skill in battle

Viking Intellectual

  • Sagas (great oral stories eventually written down in 1100-1200s), Viking ships, excellent weapons, settled Greenland, Iceland and explored NE North America

Viking Art

  • Viking ship, burial ships, sagas, some gold and silver work
  • Viking Chess men carved from Walrus  c 1000
  • Saga of Erik the Red in Iceland c. 1250
  • Silver brooch from Iceland c. 1200

The Viking’s Impact

  • Viking ship technology spreads thru Europe
  • Some English common law comes from Vikings
  • languages, vocabulary, and place-names of the areas they settled.
  • Unite N. Europe and create global trade across N. Europe for 1st time
  • Spread Christianity after 1100
  • caused European kingdoms to centralize by conquering and fear
  • European kingdoms learned how to protect themselves and gain by trade and negotiation
  • Create new cultures all over Europe (Rus in Moscovy, Norman England)

Viking Timeline

  • 789 -Vikings begin their attacks on England.800
  • 800 -The Oseberg Viking longship is buried about this time
  • 840 -Viking settlers found the city of Dublin in Ireland.
  • 844 -A Viking raid on Seville is repulsed.
  • 860 -Rus Vikings attack Constantinople (Istanbul).
  • 862 -Novgorod in Russia is founded by the Rus Viking, Ulrich.
  • 866 -Danish Vikings establish a kingdom in York, England.
  • 871 -Alfred the Great becomes king of Wessex; the Danish advance is halted in England.
  • 872 -Harald I gains control of Norway.
  • 879 -Rurik establishes Kiev as the center of the Kievan Rus' domains.
  • 886 -Alfred divides England with the Danes under the Danelaw pact.
  • 900 -The Vikings raid along the Mediterranean coast.
  • 911 -The Viking chief Rollo is granted land by the Franks and founds Normandy in France.
  • 941 -Rus Vikings attack Constantinople (Istanbul).
  • 981 -Viking leader Erik the Red discovers Greenland.
  • 986 -Viking ships sail in Newfoundland waters.
  • 991 -Æthelred II pays the first Danegeld ransom to stop Danish attacks on England.
  • 995 -Olav I conquers Norway and proclaims it a Christian kingdom.
  • 1000 -Christianity reaches Greenland and Iceland.
  • 1000 -Leif Eriksson, son of Erik the Red, explores the coast of North America.
  • 1000 -Olav I dies; Norway is ruled by the Danes
  • 1002 -Brian Boru defeats the Norse and becomes the king of Ireland.
  • 1010 -Viking explorer Thorfinn Karlsefni attempts to found a settlement in North America.
  • 1013 -The Danes conquer England; Æthelred flees to Normandy.
  • 1015 -Vikings abandon the Vinland settlement on the coast of North America.
  • 1016 -Olav II regains Norway from the Danes.
  • 1016 -The Danes under Knut (Canute) rule England.
  • 1028 -Knut (Canute), king of England and Denmark, conquers Norway.
  • 1042- Edward the Confessor rules England with the support of the Danes.
  • 1050 -The city of Oslo is founded in Norway.
  • 1066 -Harold Godwinson king of England defeats Harald Hardrada king of Norway at the Battle of Stamford Bridge      1066 -William duke of Normandy defeats the Saxon king Harold at the Battle of Hastings.

Viking Families

  • Despite being forced to arranged marriages, Viking women had more opportunities than other women of the time. A woman could stay at home alone while her husband was gone to fight in wars. She could also hold a job. Women were also in charge of keeping house by cooking, weaving, and taking care of their children and farm animals.
  • Children learned to do everything their parents did to prepare them for adulthood. Boys learned how to fight, hunt, and farm. Girls learned how to make cloth and take care of a household.


  • Houses were typically between 50 and 100 feet long and had one large room. Animals often shared the living space with the family when the weather was cold. The chieftain's home usually had a couple seperate rooms in it. The houses were constructed of materials such as stone, turf, wood, and mud. Windows weren't included in most houses, which caused the light to be very dim. Candles and lamps had to be used for illumination. The dirt floor was covered with hay. Limited furniture was available to the Vikings. The head of the household might have a bed and a chair.


  • Fish, porridge, and barley bread were staples of the Viking diet. Women used herbs and spices to season food. Wheat bread was considered a luxury. All Vikings drank beer because clean fresh water wasn't available. Men hunted deer and bears which were prepared to be eaten.


  • Women's outfits consisted of a long dress and a tunic. Once they were married, women wore headscarves. Men wore wool shirts and trousers. They also wore tunics and leather belts. During the winter, cloaks were popular. Everyone wore leather shoes. Vikings liked long hair and jewelry.