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HIST 210 The Early Middle Ages, 284–1000 Lecture 22 - Vikings / The European Prospect, 1000 [November 28, 2011] Chapter 1: Introduction [00:00:00] Professor Paul Freedman: It does seem as if we are back to invasions again. We end the course the way we began it, except they're different invaders. One thing that I'm sure Professor Frank will want you to get out of the Vikings course-- and not all of you are going to take that, obviously, so I will me
   HIST 210 The Early Middle Ages, 284  –  1000 Lecture 22 - Vikings / The European Prospect, 1000 [November 28, 2011] Chapter 1: Introduction [00:00:00]   Professor Paul Freedman:  It does seem as if we are back to invasions again. We end the course the way we began it, except they're different invaders. One thing that I'm sure Professor Frank will want you to get out of the Vikings course-- and not all of you are going to take that, obviously, so I will mention this-- is they did not have horned helmets. The horned helmet idea-- actually, Roberta Frank has researched where this totally inaccurate idea comes from and why it is ineradicable. But if there's one thing you should come out of the second part of this course knowing, it's that. So we're discussing people from Scandinavia, different parts of Scandinavia, who had different destinations. So different parts of Scandinavia: Denmark, Norway, Sweden. Different destinations: the Frankish Empire of Charlemagne for which they bear some responsibility for unraveling, Russia, the British Isles, Iceland, Greenland, the New World. They certainly got around. They're not always the same populations. And they have different ambitions in different  places. Basically, those ambitions can be divided into raiding, trading, and settling. These are not mutually exclusive. Although usually they began by raiding almost always if they were dealing with a place that had people. Thus obviously Iceland when they came didn't have people at all. So they came there as explorers or settlers. The crucial changeover is in their attacks on the British Isles and on the Frankish Empire. They  begin as raiders, that is as seaborne warriors who would plunder opportunistic targets-- monasteries, for example-- and then leave with their spoils. They also, however, were traders. And I don't want to make too much of this as if it were a timeless statement, but in the period we're dealing with, raiding and trading weren't all that far apart. When the Vikings in the east, mostly from Sweden, were dealing with the Caliphate in Baghdad or the Byzantine Empire, they found these targets too well organized with too overpowering a military presence to intimidate in the way that they were able to do with Britain and the Frankish Empire. So here they were more traders. They brought various products, particularly slaves and fur, to the Caliphate and to the Byzantine Empire. And they came back with a lot of coins, among other things. 80,000 coins from the Caliphate have been found in Sweden alone. So here they're traders.  Settlers. They would eventually settle in the Frankish Empire and in the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of England. They would settle in Ireland. Indeed, the city of Dublin was founded by the Vikings. They would settle in Iceland completely. That is, the people who live in Iceland now are the descendants of mostly Norwegian, some Danish settlers of the tenth and eleventh centuries. They would even try to settle as far afield as Newfoundland. There is a place in Newfoundland that it is unmistakably, by the archaeological evidence, a Viking site. This doesn't ultimately work. So it is wrong to think of them exclusively as savage warriors, as barbarians, but then again, we've seen that it's wrong to think of most of the invading peoples of the period we've been discussing as just totally savage raiders. These are extremely skilled raiders, and as I've just gotten through saying, they're raiders with several different possible agendas. They're very adaptive. The question remains, what made Scandinavia so powerful in the ninth and tenth centuries, especially since Scandinavia tends not to be a major actor in European politics. The two periods in which it is are this one-- basically the ninth, tenth, eleventh centuries-- and the seventeenth century when the armies of Sweden under Gustavus Adolphus terrorized Central Europe. That effort was ultimately ended not in Central Europe but in Eastern Europe by Russia. And the Russians defeated the Swedes sufficiently in the early eighteenth so that they basically never got themselves very heavily involved in European politics again. Part of the answer of Why Scandinavia? Why now? is that we're dealing with another savage or certainly less civilized population who erupt from their homeland and devastate a weak, but relatively rich society. There's nothing very unusual about that. We have seen it with the Roman Empire, and you can see it later with such successful campaigns as those of the Mongols in the thirteenth century. So the other reason besides opportunity is tactics. The Vikings were masters of the sea. If you ever do go to Denmark, Sweden, or Norway, you must go to the Viking museums there. They are absolutely enthralling. And you see these ships that seem unbelievably flimsy for the voyages that they undertook. On the other hand, by reason of their small size and particularly shallow draft-- that is to say they're able to be stable without being so deep underneath the ship, having a keel underneath-- that they can sail up rivers. They can both, therefore, go in the Atlantic and be stable enough to make the journey and go up rivers that are no more than five or six feet deep at points like the Seine in France or the Loire in France. And so they could raid far inland with these ships. And as masters of seas and rivers, they could easily outrun the clumsy, slow Carolingian armies. They could raid a monastery, check out another monastery the same afternoon. Oh, there's an army there. Well, we'll just get back in the ship, and we'll go further down. And then we'll look for more tempting targets-- palaces, towns, monasteries.   They were not good at fortification. If a place was fortified, they tended to pass it by. They were not siege masters. Their control, therefore, of the water is not dissimilar to the Arabs' advantage in the beginning of the Arab expansion that we talked about with regard to the desert. The desert functions the same way. An environment that these people controlled in the sense that they could maneuver easily in it, and their more civilized opponent with larger armies could not. The Persian and the Byzantine armies couldn't really go very far into the desert. They had supply line, water problems. They actually didn't know the desert. It all looked the same to them. So this is the same or at least a similar advantage for the Vikings. The Vikings are different from other raiders partly in their ability to construct governments, not only to settle lands, but to create governments ranging from the what advertises itself with some accuracy as the world's oldest democracy, Iceland, where tourists are still pointed out the place where the kind of parliament of all citizens took place as early as 2,000 [correction: 1,000] years ago. And they're also the founders of Russia, probably not to be advertised as the world's oldest democracy. Certainly not a country that's had a whole lot of experience with that particular form of government. But in fact, the first Christian rulers of Russia, the same Vladimir and his successors, who were baptized and crowned under Byzantine auspices were Scandinavian. And the Scandinavian groups are called the Rus. They quickly lose their Scandinavian language and identity, but nevertheless that is the founding dynasty of the first Russian rulers. So the Vikings have a fascinating culture and literature, amazing sagas mostly preserved through their Icelandic versions, very interesting art, very interesting forms of decoration, and then these magnificent ships. Their major contribution to the history of Europe may be geopolitical in the sense that they connect parts of the world that were otherwise minimally or not at all connected. So from Central Asia to Greenland, they build various kinds of cultural and particularly commercial networks. They also contribute to the destroying of the Carolingian Empire, the destroying of what we were discussing before the vacation. They're not the sole cause. We talked about weaknesses within the Carolingian Empire, but certainly the Viking invasions have devastated it during the ninth century did not at all help. Where did this drive for expansion come from besides opportunity? And there's not a tremendous agreement on this point among scholars. Overpopulation and land hunger are  possible. To this day, these are not densely populated countries. And in the pre-modern period, they could not support anything but a very small population given the fact that most of the land is not capable of being cultivated. So you can get to a point of over-population pretty quickly. Opportunities afforded by the weakness of others-- I've mentioned this. Internal feuding and the creation of exiles. It's hard to separate legend from history, but the legends about the founding of Iceland and Greenland in particular involve people who were too rowdy for the Vikings. I pause on that, because it's a little hard to imagine what such a person would have been like.  Nevertheless, these sagas tell us that various people were just too mean for quiet, civilized old   Norway or even couldn't get their energies fulfilled by plundering the Frankish Empire and went off to Iceland and places like that. The climate conditions may have been favorable. It may have been relatively warm. There's a lot of debate about the settlement of Greenland in this regard in particular. We know that by the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, Greenland was becoming too cold for the Scandinavians and not for the Inuit, who were better adapted to real polar conditions. But this is something that is of crucial importance in tracing the history of climate and is hotly debated. But it certainly looks as if it gets colder in the thirteenth, fourteenth century-- fourteenth century particularly-- throughout Europe and the Atlantic and probably warmer in the tenth and eleventh centuries when this expansion is taking place. And then finally, there's a cult of personal valor that is even stronger than that of early medieval Europe. A male cult of violent military bravery and the opportunity to demonstrate that was a kind of competitive sport. Chapter 2: The Vikings in England and on the Continent [00:13:52]  The Viking raids in England and the Continent begin around 800. One of the first stunning events is the sack of the island monastery of Lindisfarne on the eastern coast of northern England. The monastery of Lindisfarne was sacked by the Vikings in 797. Charlemagne was able to repulse these raids and the English as well. But the civil wars that we were talking about among the sons of Louis the Pious started to encourage the Vikings indirectly by the disunity of the Frankish Empire, the wasting of military resources on what was, in effect, a kind of civil war. But also the Vikings just got stronger and more ambitious, because their raids on relatively well-organized Britain start to reach their height in the 830s. So you start having the abandonment of monasteries, for example, the abandonment of Lindisfarne and the moving of its relics. So the relics of Saint Cuthbert of York move around a lot. Monks on the western coast of France abandon their monasteries and move their communities and relics further inland. The Vikings seem to jockey between emphasizing raids on the Frankish Empire and on England,  but basically they're doing both. They start to spend the winter, what's called over-wintering in the late 830s, early 840s. And that's a sinister sign from the point of view of the English, Irish, and Franks, because that means that they're going from raiding to some form of settling. If they can spend the winter and not just the classic raiding season, why not just stay permanently? So they start coming up the rivers. They start plundering cities that are not sufficiently fortified. A monk in the 860s writes, “the number of ships grows every year...” The feeling of just  this complete takeover. Now, that's the monastic point of view. The monasteries were ideal targets,  because they are rich, isolated, and minimally fortified. But nevertheless, the Carolingians have no fleet to match the Viking ships. The way to stop the Vikings-- and it was only really implemented in the 870s and 880s. The way to stop the Vikings was with fortified bridges. If you built a bridge that the Vikings could not go
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