Anglo-Saxons & Vikings – 4a Viking Raids
Who were the Vikings?
The Viking age in European history was from about AD700 to 1100. During this period many Vikings left their homelands in Scandinavia and travelled by longboat to other countries, like Britain and Ireland.
When the people of Britain first saw the Viking longboats they came down to the shore to welcome them. However, the Vikings fought the local people, stealing from churches and burning buildings to the ground.The people of Britain called the invaders ‘Danes’, but they came from Norway and Sweden as well as Denmark.
The name ‘Viking’ comes from a language called ‘Old Norse’ and means ‘a pirate raid’. People who went off raiding in ships were said to be ‘going Viking’. But not all the Vikings were bloodthirsty warriors.Some came to fight, but others came peacefully, to settle. They were farmers, and kept animals and grew crops. They were skilful at crafting, and made beautiful metalwork and wooden carvings.
Vikings sailed the seas trading goods to buy silver, silks, spices, wine, jewellery, glass and pottery to bring back to their homes.
The first Viking raid recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle was around AD787. It was the start of a fierce struggle between the Anglo-Saxons and the Vikings. The Vikings were pagans, not Christians like most people living in Britain at the time. They did not think twice about raiding a monastery. Christian monasteries in Britain were easy targets for the Vikings. The monks had no weapons and the buildings were filled with valuable treasures, like gold, jewels and books. There was food, drink, cattle, clothes and tools too – all very tempting to a Viking raider.
Over several years the army battled through northern England, taking control of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Northumbria, East Anglia and most of Mercia. By AD 874, almost all the kingdoms had fallen to the Vikings. All except for Wessex, which was ruled by Alfred the Great. King Alfred beat the Viking army in battle but wasn’t able to drive the Vikings out of Britain.
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