The Viking Invasion: More Than Just Pillaging: How Norse Culture Left a Lasting Mark on Europe

Jack Dradey

The Vikings are often remembered for the destruction and brutality which they inflicted throughout Europe.

This is obviously highlighted in modern media with film and television focusing on the Vikings' brutality. However, this focus has overshadowed the Vikings’ immense impact on European culture from the eighth to tenth century. The Vikings’ significant influence on European culture is still prevalent in modern society. Many of the words which we use today originate from the Old Norse language. Their impact is remarkable as wherever the Vikings settled, they would impose their language onto the regions. Jonathan Clements notes that ‘the Norse and Anglo-Saxon languages were similar enough to permit rudimentary communication’; this similarity helped the Vikings trade within England as it was easier to communicate. Many words you use in your day-to-day life come from the Old Norse language, such as club (in reference to the heavy blunt weapon) which comes from the Old Norse word ‘klubba’. Historians argue that ‘there is a Scandinavian enclave in the very central regions of the English vocabulary’. This is emphasised by the categorical fact that Old Norse terms are still used in parts of England, such as ‘hoast’ which means to cough. However, some argue that this impact was inevitable and that adopting a regional language is unavoidable. Nevertheless, the Vikings had an impact on the English language within Europe throughout the Viking Age despite it being inevitable. Beautiful Viking art seems to be a forgotten area of the Viking period, acting as an oxymoron to their bloodshed. Nevertheless, the Vikings had a significant impact on art in Europe during the eighth, ninth and tenth centuries, demonstrated by archaeological evidence showing the Vikings' impact on European culture. Within the late eighth and early ninth century, the prominent style of Viking art was the Oseberg style. The Oseberg style is easily identified by having animal carvings and abstract patterns.
The Viking Invasion: More Than Just Pillaging: How Norse Culture Left a Lasting Mark on Europe
Oseberg ship

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The most famous piece of Oseberg art is the ‘Oseberg ship’

The most famous piece of Oseberg art is the ‘Oseberg ship’ which is believed to have been built in 820 CE in Norway and excavated in 1904. This piece of Oseberg art is significant as it shows the delicate Viking art and how it has spread its way across Europe. Jean Sorabella argues that ‘sophisticated and delicate Viking art contrasts with their stereotypical representations of violence and brutality’. Modern scholars clearly respect Viking art, specifically the Oseberg style. James Graham Campbell argues that the Oseberg style was ‘used to mark the full establishment of the Viking Age’ which clearly highlights the significance and impact of Viking Art on European culture. Another style of Viking Art was the Ringerike style, which was at the peak of popularity in the late tenth century. The Ringerike style is characterised by motifs of various animals, such as birds and lions, with spiral designs. This style of Viking Art had more of an impact on Europe simply because this style was seen all over Europe. Graham-Campbell observes that ‘the Ringerike style spread extensively throughout Scandinavia, including to Iceland - and was made fashionable in England...it had a considerable impact on Ireland’. Overall, it is clear that the Vikings weren’t just men who slaughtered and rampaged across Europe; they were talented and artistic and had a grave impact on Europe in the eighth, ninth and tenth centuries. They have been stigmatised throughout history and have gained a stereotype of an angry group of people who wear helmets with horns attached.
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The Viking Invasion: More Than Just Pillaging: How Norse Culture Left a Lasting Mark on Europe

Jack Dradey

Hello, my name is Jack and I’m a second-year student at Royal Holloway University of London studying History. My interests include medieval history and fashion history. I enjoy investigating parts of history and the changes of continuities of certain periods. When I’m not up to my neck in essays and books I am normally found in museums finding out new information…or you’ll find me in the museum gift shop looking for a new tote bag. You can find me on Instagram @jack.dradey
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