Goodbye to the Vikings

Richard Hodges shows how new evidence is leading to a fresh understanding of the role of the Vikings in European history.

Medieval history has turned a corner with the new millennium. Almost unnoticed, a new paradigm is being shaped. Ninth-century Europe is being re-calibrated by decades thanks not only to many new excavations but also to the wealth of numismatic evidence being found by tens of thousands of energetic metal-detectorists. The first results cast great doubt upon the role of the Vikings as deus ex machina forces in the course of the century. Their role as a catalytic force in terminating an age of peaceful trade between the North Sea kingdoms is open to question as is their part, after a supposed generation of turmoil and cataclysmic disruption, in the making of the Middle Ages and, in particular, in the industrial revolution that characterised the late ninth and tenth centuries. Indeed, the thrust of the new evidence tends in part to confirm that the Vikings only became raiders and invaders when the Carolingian political economy collapsed during the civil wars between the grandsons of Charlemagne.

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