4

The Vikings and the New World

The Vikings reached North America. This is an historical fact. The evidence, written and archaeological, allows for no doubt: sometime around the millenium men whose cultural ties reached beyond Greenland and Iceland to Scandinavia arrived on the shores of North America. To deny or even to cast doubt on this would be to fly in the face of overwhelming historical evidence.

The question of the historicity of the Vikings in the New World arises only because it is related to the question of who actually discovered America. The fascination with the discovery of America is really a fascination, not with the discovery of the Western Hemisphere—it was discovered perhaps 30,000 years ago by Asiatics—but with its much later discovery by Europeans: who was the first European to sight the New World? A more significant question historically would be: what circumstances, what patterns of human development led to a European presence on the western shores of the Atlantic Ocean? The discoveries in the late fifteenth century led to European settlements and, since then, to a continuous and dominant European presence. If not Christopher Columbus, then surely someone else—perhaps that Anglicized Italian Giovanni Cabotto—would have landed in America during the last decade of the fifteenth century. The person is less important than the historical forces at work which made, at least at that time, such a discovery inevitable. In the Viking age, four centuries earlier, still other forces made a landing in North America a virtual inevitability. The identity of the first Viking to sight America may never be known, perhaps with historical justice, for the first Viking to make landfall there was driven by forces spanning in distance the North Atlantic from the fjords of western and southern Norway and spanning in time several centuries of Viking explorations.


Early discoveries

Before the Vikings did other peoples cross the Atlantic to reach

-81-

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The Vikings in History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 7
  • Maps, Illustrations and Tables 8
  • Acknowledgements 10
  • Preface to the First Edition 11
  • Preface to the Second Edition 13
  • 1 - The Vikings on the Eve 15
  • Selected Further Reading 34
  • 2 - The First Raids on the British Isles and Their Aftermath 35
  • 3 - Across the North Atlantic 58
  • 4 - The Vikings and the New World 81
  • Selected Further Reading 111
  • 5 - The Danes in the South 112
  • Selected Further Reading 137
  • 6 - The Danes in England 138
  • 7 - The Swedes and the East 180
  • Selected Further Reading 206
  • 8 - Epilogue 208
  • Index 212
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