Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Vikings is a series of lectures focussing on Scandinavia during the age of the Vikings (roughly a few hundred years on either side of 1000 AD). A little background is provided on the people before the time and how they split off from the the other Germanic people of the time. There is also a brief section at the end covering the christianization of Scandinavia and the integration in to Europe of the time. The bulk of the course, however, focuses on the sea-going exploits of the Vikings. With their technology, they were able to rapidly move around to raid, trade and plunder with minimal opposition. While they often participated in purely "business" missions, at times they stayed and adopted the habits and customs of the locals. Thus we get the Norman French, who were primarily a Viking caste that had adopted the French language.

The history of Britain and France from the Viking perspective is also enlightening. The battle involved a bunch of French who had recently immigrated from Scandinavia fighting against a bunch of Scandinavians and some English who had taken the throne from Scandinavians. Its like the USSR and US having a proxy battle in Vietnam. It ends up very important for Vietnamese history, but for the players, it was just a small part in the bigger picture.

The concept of "kings" is also enlightening. It seems anybody with Scandinavian ancestry can find plenty of kings in their family tree. Part of this was the natural reproductivity of kings (and their many wives). However, there were also a large number of kings. The Scandinavians didn't have large kingdoms until after they Christianized. Instead there were numerous "sea kings" who ruled small areas and led raiding parties.

The Vikings had led a very complex society. Alas, other than the Icelanders, they were not too keen on writing about their exploits. Thus most of what we hear from them is from their opponents.

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