Vikings, Scandinavian warriors who raided the coasts of Europe and the British Isles from the 9th cent. to the 11th cent. During the Neolithic period the Scandinavians had lived in small autonomous communities as farmers, fishermen, and hunters. At the beginning of the Viking Age they were the best shipbuilders and sailors in the world; they later ventured as far as Greenland and North America (see Vinland). At the height of the Viking Age, the typical Viking warship, the "long ship," had a high prow, adorned with the figure of an animal, and a high stern (see ship). It seated up to 30 oarsmen and had an average crew of 90. Its square sails were perpendicularly striped in many colors, and the entire ship was vividly painted and elaborately carved. On both sides of the ship hung a row of painted round shields. This is the most familiar Viking ship; the many other types varied according to purpose and period. Among the causes that drove the Vikings from their lands were overpopulation, internal dissension, quest for trade, and thirst for adventure. Many local kingdoms came into existence in Scandinavia, and from them stemmed the kingdoms of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden. The Vikings' religion was paganism of the Germanic type; their mythological and heroic legends form the content of Old Norse literature. The Viking Age ended with the introduction of Christianity into Scandinavia, with the emergence of the three great Scandinavian kingdoms, and with the rise of European states capable of defending themselves against further invasions. Many Vikings settled where they had raided. The Scandinavian raiders in Russia were known as Varangians; their leader Rurik founded the first Russian state. Elsewhere the Vikings came to be known as Danes, Northmen, Norsemen, or Normans.

See T. D. Kendrick, A History of the Vikings (1930, repr. 1968); J. B. Brondsted, The Vikings (new tr. 1965); G. Jones, A History of the Vikings (1968, repr. 1973); P. Foote and D. M. Wilson, The Viking Achievement (1970); O. Klindt-Jensen, The World of the Vikings (tr. 1971); P. H. Sawyer, The Age of the Vikings (2d ed. 1972); W. W. Fitzhugh and E. I. Ward, ed., Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga (2000); R. Ferguson, The Vikings (2009); G. Williams, The Viking Ship (2014); G. Williams et al., ed., Vikings: Life and Legend (museum catalog, 2014); A. Winroth, The Age of the Vikings (2014).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Vikings: Selected full-text books and articles

The Vikings By Johannes Brøndsted; Kalle Skov Penguin Books, 1965
A Prehistory of the North: Human Settlement of the Higher Latitudes By John F. Hoffecker Rutgers University Press, 2005
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 1 "Vikings in the Arctic"
The Vikings in History By F. Donald Logan Routledge, 1991 (2nd edition)
A History of the Vikings By T. D. Kendrick Charles Scribner's Sons, 1930
Medieval Warfare: A History By Maurice Keen Oxford University Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "Vikings"
Neglected Heroes: Leadership and War in the Early Medieval Period By Terry L. Gore Praeger Publishers, 1995
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Three "Ireland and the Vikings: Brian Boru and the Battle of Clontarf, A.D. 1014"
The Birth of Western Economy: Economic Aspects of the Dark Ages By Robert Latouche Barnes & Noble, 1961
Librarian’s tip: "The Vikings and Scandinavian Expansion" begins on p. 211
Vikings in Russia: Yngvar's Saga and Eymund's Saga By Hermann Palsson; Paul Edwards Edinburgh University Press, 1989
Early Voyages and Northern Approaches, 1000-1632 By Tryggvi J. Oleson McClelland and Stewart, 1963
Viking Fury - Legends of the Ravaging Norsemen By Henkin, Stephen The World and I, Vol. 15, No. 1, January 2000
Late Saxon and Viking Art By T. D. Kendrick Methuen, 1949
Looking for a topic idea? Use Questia's Topic Generator
Author Advanced search


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.