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Vikings before England Capture

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Vikings have long had a reputation as fearsome warriors and savages. Evidence found at archaeological sites in York, England challenges the stereotypes that have been associated with them for years. The general assumption made about the Vikings has stayed the same for most of human history. For a long time, the stereotypes about the Vikings were true. By the year 866 B.C.E., the Viking raiders had established a strong reputation for their conquests on the coast of England. The Vikings would target wealthy monasteries for their treasures, take people from the villages to become slaves, and then return to their home in Scandinavia (Ross, 2019). This season of savagery and domination changed for the better in the 9th century with the invasion of York, England. This invasion triggered a switch in the Vikings demeanor and attitudes towards their traditions and culture. Some historians believe that York was just another conquest to add to the resume of the Vikings, but there is some archeological and historical context that disagree. Researchers have been studying and collecting data from sites that have changed the outlook on who the Vikings were as a people. The Vikings did not raid York, England for military gain and blind conquest, but to find a starting point to cultivate culture and establish a permanent, advancing society.

To get a better understanding about the Vikings and the drastic change in their way of life, we have to look at what the Viking’s life was before the capture of York, England. Although the Vikings are known as fearsome warriors, most started out exploring, trading, and peacefully living as different parts of Europe (“How did the Vikings Come to York?”, 2019). Most of the Vikings were skilled fishermen and farmers, being self sufficient, and able to take advantage of what nature offered them (Ross, 2019). With the increase in men and advances in boat-making, several Vikings could leave their farms and travel to newer and lands farther from home. These groups began to perform small raids of towns close to their home in Scandinavia. With this increase in travel, the word about towns and their farming of produce and profitable church possessions in neighboring towns reached the Vikings which made these towns favorable targets for the Vikings (Design, 2019). Becoming accustomed to this style of living, the Vikings could take on larger scale raids with better trained armies leading to more success. Their large conquest over towns in England led them to the discovery of York, a place that would become the center of their new civilization.

On November 1 in the year 866 B.C.E., the Vikings invaded York. This date was chosen carefully by the Vikings, because it was All Saints Day in York. On this day, most of the town leaders would have been in the cathedral, making the surprise attack more effective (Design, 2019). This led to the Vikings successfully taking over York. However, the two main kings of York, Aelle and Osbert were not captured which caused the initial raid to not be completely effective. But after a few attacks against other kingdoms, the Vikings returned to York with a vengeance, taking complete control and killing the two former kings (Design, 2019).

Progress from this point on for the Vikings started gradually. The Vikings began to attempt to settle in York for the next few years, taking a less violent approach, attempting to trade and form treaties with surrounding kingdoms as well as cultivate the land which they had taken control over. For an extended length of time, most kingdoms wanted nothing to do with the Vikings, in fear of the Vikings viewing the treaties as a weakness and an invitation of some sort to invade their cities. This changed when King Alfred of Wessex agreed to a truce with the current Viking King, Guthrum, which divided England into the Anglo-Saxon southern kingdom and the Danelaw (Ross, 2019). The Danelaw was under the Vikings control and included most of the northern counties in England. This was the first north and south divide for the country of England.

The Vikings, after gaining this new control, changed the name of the town to Jorvik. They began to build farms in the countryside and more Vikings from other parts of Europe began to settle there. The leaders began to experiment in trade, and York ended up becoming an important market for local goods and for overseas trade (Design, 2019). They built houses for their residents as well as streets lined with workshops and wells. The Vikings began to develop the Anglo-Scandinavian culture in the town of York. At their arrival, they worshipped their own gods, but many Vikings converted to Christianity and began to marry local people (Design, 2019). The Vikings took these next few years pursuing a peaceful community based on agriculture, trade, and making the quality of living for its residents the best it could possibly be.

The Vikings experienced a significant change in culture in the first few years of settling in York. Before the Vikings settlement in Jorvik, towns did not exist. Instead, societies were organized around nomatic kings, who did not use urban settings to oversee their kingdoms (Trynoski, 2019). Only specific locations in the towns were important for certain rituals such as crowning kings or knighting soldiers, but there was no organized housing or markets. After the settlement of the Vikings, the housing was created in the same way, but arranged differently. Good archaeological material has been recovered showing evidence for a great level of similarity between the buildings before and after York was taken by the Vikings. The houses were arranged closely packed together. The front of the house was made to be a workshop area so the homeowner could create his or her product in their home. The back of the house was for dining, sleeping and storage for the families who lived there. The backyard area was mainly used for refuse and human offal (Trynoski, 2019).

Another way the culture of the Vikings changed was the development of government. Under viking rule, the two separate cities, York and Dublin, were part of one kingdom, but sometimes acted as two separate capitals (Trynoski, 2019). York was the site of greater political importance, since it was the official capital city of the Viking territory. Evidence suggests that the two cities’ system of government was similar in nature to the government present in Scandinavia (Trynoski, 2019). One way that the Vikings government differed from the Scandinavian government is the presence of Thingmotes: a mound constructed as a burial monument and as an assembly ground to discuss the governance of the city (Trynoski, 2019). O’Brien in a study stated that Thingmotes in a Scandinavian society would not be in an urban setting, so archeologists finding these mounds in major areas of the city leads researchers to believe that there are a few adaptations to the Scandinavian system of government. Another way that the government differed from Scandinavian government was that in York, the king’s position was not as clearly defined as it was back in Scandinavia. This can be seen with the archeological find of coins during this time period. During this time period in the world, kings would place their faces anywhere they could to show dominion over their kingdoms, especially on their currency. However, the coins found in York are anonymous, not taking the image or naming the king who was in charge of their creation (Trynoski, 2019). These differences in government allowed for York to create their own version of how they wanted to govern themselves.

The final way York changed for the better in the first years of the Viking settlement was through the development of trade. These people brought their skills in production and trade to a new land that could finally support their desired way of life. The land offered the Vikings materials that fueled the Vikings ability to manufacture a wide variety of items in great quantity and uniform throughout. The production of items seemed to be standardized throughout the entire Jorvik empire. These goods made by the Vikings were in high demand. However, a number of raw materials was needed to fuel their production rate that the surrounding land could not provide. This caused trade in Viking culture to develop into a more sophisticated approach. Most of the food and raw materials needed by Jorvik inhabitants were available in immediate surrounding areas being brought mostly from Yorkshire’s countryside estates (Design, 2019). After these materials were used and processed into usable goods, the finished products would make the return to the countryside estates and be sold in various shops and markets. The Vikings were great traders and had established links spreading from the Caspian Sea and Black Sea in the east, to Russia, Iceland, and Greenland early in their time being located in York (Design, 2019). This meant that a number of goods from these countries made an appearance in Jorvik as well. Jorvik became a booming marketplace and a cosmopolitan hotspot for visitors across the world. This change in the Vikings lifestyle in the early years of their settlement allowed for them to build on a strong foundation based on trade and allowed them to grow as a community.

The Viking invasions of Anglo-Saxon England and its surrounding areas brought on the Viking Age in much of Europe which lasted for about 300 years. During the Viking Age, the Scandanavian people ravaged the kingdoms of England which lead to “…settlement on a substantial scale and extensive Scandavian cultural and linguistic influence in eastern and northern England”(Hadley 23). Dawn M. Hadley, the Professor of Medieval Archaeology at the University of York, and her team of researchers conducted research at the winter camp of the Viking Great Army in Torksey, Lincolnshire in England. Their research found that this location was settled because of its ideal location and the resources that were found to be readily available in the surrounding areas. The camp at Torksey was to be “…developed as an important Anglo-Saxon borough with a major wheel-thrown 

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Vikings Before England Capture. (2022, July 07). GradesFixer. Retrieved August 15, 2022, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/vikings-before-england-capture/
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