Those Vikings Got Around

Evening all! For the last 5 days of this daily posting challenge (check out my intro post if you’ve come in late and don’t know why I’m doing this) I’ll be giving you quick summaries of some of the geographic exploits of the Vikings.

Basically, they went way, way further afield than you probably realise.

However, for today we’ll start at home, in Britain. England, to be even more precise. Here’s a map of England in 878, so that if you wish you can stop reading after looking at the picture and still know more than you did before.

England 878

By Hel-hama (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

And here’s an excellent explanation of what “the Vikings” actually were.

The first recorded Viking raid was in 789, down in the south-west in Wessex, and the more famous “first” one was in 793 on a monastery on the island of Lindisfarne. That island was near Bamburgh on the north-east coast, so if you take a look at the map for a second you can already see that these invaders were happy travelling all around our  island. They also started raiding Ireland in the 9th century.

(I could just as well have titled this series of posts: Have Boats, Will Raid because the Vikings did pretty much go anywhere with a river. But I digress.)

The Vikings had a good time raiding our rich, unprotected monasteries, but then obviously took home news about the new lands. Worth settling, they decided, rather than just periodic … harvesting. So they came back with armies. If you’ve tuned in to The Last Kingdom on the BBC at all, or read the book it’s based on, you’ll have a vague fuzzy picture of the sort of warfare which ensued for the best part of 30 years, until King Alfred the Great and the Viking leader Guthrum formally arranged a border between their controlled areas of England.

The Vikings settled in. You’ve seen me talk about some of the evidence for that in place-names. They also settled in Orkney and other Scottish islands, though in a beautiful role reversal may have been afraid of the raiding mainland Scots! As previously mentioned they got to Ireland pretty quickly, and set up bases there too. Dublin was quite the slave trade hub and there are many Scandinavian place-names in Ireland. Trade went on between Dublin, Liverpool and Bristol.

I didn’t know this until just now, although really it’s common sense since they went everywhere else, but they even made an impact on Wales, probably settling on Anglesey (which is an entirely Scandinavian name). Look at these cool Welsh names for Vikings!

  • gentiles nigri (the black heathen)
  • y llu du (the black host)
  • kenhedloedd duon (the black nations)
  • y Normanyeit duon (black Normans)
  • dub gint (black heathen, from Irish dubh Gennti)
  • Brithwyr du (black Brithwyr)
  • dieifyl du (black devils)
  • Gentiles “gentiles”
  • Paganaid “pagans”
  • Y Cenhedloedd (the nations)
  • Nordmani (northmen)
  • gwyr Dulyn (men from Dublin)
  • y genedyl (the nation)
  • y pobloedd (the peoples)
  • Gwyddyl (Irish, but referring in actuality to the Hiberno-Norse)
  • Daenysseit (Danes)
  • gwyr Denmarc (men of Denmark)
  • Lochlannaigh or Llychynwyr (men of “Lochlann” meaning Norway)
  • Llychlynwys (Scandinavians).

I am sleepy  and need to go to bed, so have some more maps.

Kingdom of Mann and the Isles-en

© Sémhur / Wikimedia Commons, via Wikimedia Commons



Those Vikings Got Around

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