Vikings: occupiers and settlers

In their quest for wealth, tribute and lands to settle the more adventurous Vikings occupied areas of the British Isles: for example, the Danelaw (865-76), and Normandy (late ninth-early tenth centuries). It was mainly Danes and Norwegians who settled in Iceland (about 870-930), the Faroes (825), the southwestern coasts of Greenland (986). They even made landfalls on the eastern coast of Canada (Vinland, around 1000), albeit briefly. Sailing eastwards across the Baltic and via the great rivers of Russia and the Ukraine, the Volga, Don and Dnieper, Swedish Vikings established bases to collect tribute and to make contacts with the Byzantine and Islamic worlds in the late eighth-ninth centuries.

Such contacts were not always peaceful, but there is little doubt that Viking activity stimulated trade and industry in northern Europe, especially in the Danelaw and Ireland. Both York and Dublin were important Viking towns and, between 1019-1042, Denmark, England and, for a while, Norway were politically united under the rule of King Cnut (or Canute) and his son Harthacnut. Also, towards the close of the Viking period, the Scandinavian kingdoms were gradually Christianized by missionaries from England and Germany and became fully integrated into medieval Europe.

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