Student/Courtney Hector Duncan89

Course/GL HIST 2600 “The History of Medieval Europe”

Attention/Professor Jonathan Herold

Date 12/17/2010

Number of Pages

Paper Proposalvikings

My topic is a study of the Viking people in the dark ages. During the entire medieval period, the Scandinavian regions are often- ignored in the traditional history curriculum. Historians minimize their achievements to a group who raided and disrupted the settlement of Europe for 300 years, beginning in about 750 AD. An essay on the topic of the Vikings will bring to attention the achievements of the Scandinavian people. However, more so look at them as a civilized society rather than a barbaric nation. The essay will focus on the Danish King Cnut and Viking achievements in literature and society. For centuries scholars have contradicted, the pious acts of King Cnut. Historians depict the Vikings as a marauding, cruel, and base pagan sect from the Northern Europe. The essay is a good read because of the contradicting analyses.







The Danes in England (Raleigh Lecture On History, 1927) British Academy By Sir Frank Stenton  Eng-hist-Danelaw-3rd-15


Sir Frank Stenton presented this essay on October 26, 1927 at the Raleigh lecture. The essay covers the period from the late 9th century to the ending of 12th century. Sir Frank Stenton uses such primary sources the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles and {Domesday Book} that document how the different Scandinavian armies divided out Northumbria, a portion of Mercia and East Anglia. He argues that the Scandinavian people were more than barbarian pillagers of the island known today as Great Britain. Although the Norsemen of the legend spread fear and terror into the civilized people of Europe for four centuries, the Scandinavian people still farmed-established a trading system in England, and implemented laws that survived well into the 12th century. Moreover, the Scandinavian language is important in the old English language, from where the modern language of today derived. These are some examples how this text serves to strengthened my argument.

This text is an excellent primary source because Stanley uses some of the oldest Anglo-Saxon chronicles and manuscripts to prove his argument. My interests in this topic glean from my belief that the Viking culture is a structured and hierarchical society. Modern English is an intricate language derived from the various groups of people who had inhabited the island as conquerors or settlers. The Anglo Saxons like the Romans and Normans invaded England and added their bloodline to the people known as British in today’s society.

In any case, it is clear that many British historians consider the Viking people raiders, rather than conquerors or settlers. The Vikings established an identity that is evidence in the genetics, common laws, and language of the British people.

The Scandinavian people established the settlement of the English Danelaw, which had a military origin. The Danelaw survived well during the reign of the Normans who employed a group of people known as Sokemen. The Sokemen collected taxes in the old Danelaw regions of the Anglo-Norman kingdom, which was established in 1066. Sir Frank Stenton states that the Sokemen of Domesday were not a small body of men who emerged through accidental circumstances, but a definite class that formed an integral (and often a dominant) part of the established order of a rural society. The term Soke is of Danish origin, established only in the regions of the Danelaw. Further study reveals that the term Sokn means parish and seeking. {Sokemen} and its labour structure ended only in the 18th century.

History is more than battles and ecclesiastical laws. Pagan societies such as the Vikings were fascinating because they achieved so much wealth and territorial land across the continent of Europe. My readings made me ask many questions. For example, why is the Scandinavian culture so nonexistent in the teachings of history? The Précis assignment has given me more confidence to analyse and create a strong thesis based on a subject with few primary documents or significant secondary manuscript.


This assignment enlightens a student to the importance of things not looked upon as primary documents, such as old maps, the sport of hunting, trade, fashion, language and common laws. Medieval history is more than an account of Christian kings, popes and warfare. It is a migration of people and their cultures. From the beginning of the first Viking invasion in 790 to the end of the eleventh century, Viking people established themselves in Constantinople, Russia, Normandy, and North America. From 1014-1035, King Cnut ruled a European empire that was larger and more powerful than the empire of Charlemagne. The Scandinavian contribution to medieval Europe is more significant than historians have portrayed. This is more evidence that Scandinavians were just as civilized as medieval nations who had converted to Christianity centuries before the Vikings.










The Vikings in Britain by H.R. Loyn   


Henry Royston Loyn was a British historian who specialized in the history of Anglo-Saxon England. Loyn’s objective was to enlighten the reader to the reasons for the Viking raids, which led to Scandinavian settlements and trading posts throughout Europe. The Vikings in Britain begins by explaining the Scandinavian world relative to Europe in the early Viking Age. As a reader, you are surprised to learn that the ancient Romans traded with the Scandinavian. The Vikings were farmers, colonizers, pirates, and traders. It is speculated that the Vikings benefited from the cold winters and plentiful fishing waters. When Constantinople suffered from the plague, the Viking population flourished because the virus did not strive in cold climates. Nonetheless, Scandinavia suffered from over population, which brought on tribal wars between (neighbouring) clans. The Vikings then migrated out to Europe to raid and plunder for profit.

Loyn’s objective is to illustrate the complex life of a Scandinavian farmer, who could have been a raider in May and a planter of corn in August. The book’s overall objective is to explain the correlation between farming, settlement, trade, and piracy.

Lasting for a period of 300 years, the Viking Age had a lasting effect overall of Europe and, more importantly for this thesis, on the island of Great Britain. Loyn suggests that the Vikings plundered to acquire slaves, books, and livestock, to be traded in the markets of Europe, and Islamic territories. Vikings built forts served for trade and the protection of settlers throughout Europe.

The book relates the story of raids, settlement, and wars with the indigenous people of Britain. This précis concentrates on the area of the island known as the Danelaw. This is a brilliant


secondary source; it makes one aware of the settlers in the Danish occupied territory helping the Viking warriors in the skirmishes against Anglo-Saxons. Viking raiders could spend the winter in Viking-friendly Danelaw or any other region under Scandinavian rule. They most likely obtained information on which towns would be profitable to loot, or were able to purchase horses to travel further inland to plunder territories not associated with the Danelaw. The Vikings were intelligent they used the prose in their ancestral scriptures to guide them in the world.

This book explains the effect of the Scandinavian invasion of Britain by outlining the linguistic, institutional and physical evidence at the centre of the debate about evidence of Scandinavian cultures contributing to what we now know as British culture. Loyn states that, institutionally, the Danes and Norwegians laws and their terminology were still in use centuries after the Danish threat left Britain with the death of King Cnut in 1035. Some of these legal terms were the establishment of the hundred courts, the sub-division of a shire known as a wapentake and the written records of Scandinavians seeking justice in the courts.

The study of Scandinavian history in the middle ages is much like the research of Irish history in connection to English or British culture. Historians choose not to present or connect these people with the British historically. Nonetheless, H.R. Loyn has put to paper the contribution of the Viking people to the kingdom of Great Britain.


Florence of Worcester translated by Stevenson, Joseph. A history of the Kings of England, Cnut Law Code, and Cnut Letter to his English People

Cnut was the Danish king of England between (1016 and 1035). King Cnut was a brilliant ruler who brought peace and prosperity to England. Cnut had all the attributes of a Viking He was cruel, fierce and merciless in battle. Nonetheless, Cnut was a fair and just leader who gave land and titles to Anglo Saxons equally with his Danish soldiers. In some instances, the Danish people despised Cnut because he spent so much time in England. Although Cnut had shown the fierceness and cruelty of a Viking in the earlier years of warfare, he exhibited a high order of leadership when he came to reign. He loved the English as his own people and bestowed great wealth upon the church. He was a bettor king than the English king before him. He carried out the policy of the Anglo Saxons laws and furthered the peace and prosperity of his people.  

  Cnut issued some of his own laws, which echoed the sentiment of the Ten Commandment of the Jewish and Christian faiths. This code distinguishes Cnut’s reign and ridicules the historians who consider all Viking peoples-within the 300-year period of raids upon Europe savages and barbarians. In the Law Code, Cnut forbids the practice of worshipping idols, nature, and witchcraft. A Viking not an Anglo-Saxon introduced this code. Cnut’s laws forbade incest, adultery, murder and many of the activities forbidden by the Christian God. Cnut implemented a law that gave a woman 12 months to morn upon her husband’s death. After the 12-month period, she was able to choose a husband for herself. These codes further convinced me that the Scandinavian people were just as pious as other European Christians.

Herold, Jonathan. GL History 2600 History of Medieval Europe “A Muslim Diplomat meets Viking Merchant” Toronto, Ontario: University of Toronto Press, 2010.

Ibn Fadlin was a member of an embassy sent by the caliph of Baghdad to the King of the Bulgars. His writing is a description of Swedish traders in the year 920. Ibn Fadlin describes the Vikings as being giant and ruddy of complexion. There clothing is rough and simple. All the Vikings carry a sword, axe, and dagger. These men are traders; the prime commodity is female slaves. As a student of history, you must remember that women tended the household and produced sons. Many women died of disease, abuse or during child labour. There was a demand for foreign women in regions where a man had many wives. Ibn Fadlin describes the Vikings as cruel, dirty, and promiscuous. The writer addressed the rape of these slave girls by their Nordic master. There is nothing saintly or pious about these men. The writing addresses the scholars who consider Norsemen unclean and barbaric. This primary source is a good example for a student wanting to argue against my thesis statement.


Jonasson, Bjorn. Translator The Sayings of the Vikings: Havamal, Reykjavik Iceland: Gudrun Publishing, 2002.

Translated by Pálsson, Hermann and Paul Edwards. Knytlinga Saga The history of the kings of Denmark, Odense, Denmark: Odense University Press, 1986.


My primary documents are the Havamal collection poems and William of Malmesbury chronicles of the Kings of England. The Scandinavian and Germanic people believed the poems to be the words of the god Odin. The Hávamál writings prove the Scandinavian people were civilized (as opposed to barbaric). A civilized populace demonstrates moral and intellectual advancements. The Vikings were civilized because they had respect for individuals, nature, and society. The Hávamál poems explain the meaning of right and wrong. They showed young Scandinavians how to be successful, but more important, how to remember the achievements of their ancestors and to preserve the culture.

The second primary source is a history of the kings of England, critically; the source identifies Cnut as the unifying figure in Anglo-Saxon England and in Scandinavia. Looking at Cnut, you can see that the Hávamál influenced his thinking, as did the Christian church. The Hávamál 43rd stanza states, “To his friend a man should bear him as friend, to him and a friend of his; but let him beware that he be not the friend of one who is friend to his foe.” This quote (from the Havamal) addresses Cnut’s cunning in creating allies within Anglo Saxon England. However, he avenged the death of the Anglo-Saxon King Edmund by executing all the friends Cnut had bribed to murder him.


William of Malmesbury provides an ideal source, recreating the movement of the Viking culture from a powerful heathen faction to a highly stratified Christian state under the rule of Cnut. The writings indicate the peace obtained by England during the reign of Cnut; but more importantly, the reader gets a sense of the Scandinavian influences on the royal houses of Europe from an early stage in medieval history. For example, consider the Normans, the Anglo-Saxons of England, and the Germans–these tribes all descended from the region of Scandinavia. These Scandinavian tribes had bloodlines through marriages with best families of Western Europe. This was the plan of King Cnut, who spent most of his reign in England. William of Malmesbury indicates that Cnut had sent Anglo-Saxon diplomats to Scandinavia and awarded earldoms equally to the Scandinavians and Anglo-Saxons. King Cnut was generous to the church he built monasteries and awarded the church vast tracks of land across the territories he owned in Europe.

Bibliographic research has proved there was more to the Viking raiders than pillaging and murder-however, there were hypothetical arguments that rightfully described the Swedish {Rus’} as cruel, base, dirty savages. Even so, the Viking culture had a positive influence on Anglo- Saxon society. The Scandinavian blood and language is forever, entwined with a sense of what it means to be British. British history has always segregated itself from the history of Ireland and the Viking people that have so influenced British culture. The most important thing I have learned from this research is that it is more ignorant than racist to exclude the one group of people that are the fathers of the Northern European race, a group the English so covet.