Whether as colonisers, traders or warriors, Scandinavians reached almost every part of the known world and discovered new lands. From the Nordic kingdoms, their ships penetrated the west European coast, sailed through the Strait of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean Sea and, from there, journeyed to Italy, Spain, Morocco and the Holy Land. From the Baltic they penetrated the Continent, travelling up Russian rivers and waterways to the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, and all the way to Baghdad. In Asia, they met caravans from China and traded walrus ivory and furs for spices, silver and exotic goods.
They sailed the whole of the North Atlantic and discovered the Faeroes, Iceland and Greenland, and settled parts of England, Scotland, Ireland and Normandy, an area which still bears their name. This remarkable achievement is known both from contemporary written sources and through archaeological discoveries. A Scandinavian settlement has even been discovered in Newfoundland, Canada.
The reasons for this extraordinary outpouring of peoples from Scandinavia have been debated ever since the Viking Age. Duddo, a priest writing in Normandy in about 1020, blamed overpopulation in the Viking homelands; the writers of the thirteenth-centtirv Icelandic sagas thought that the tyranny of those in power in the homelands had caused mass emigration.
The most fertile and eisily worked areas in Scandinavia had been settled since prehistoric times; as the population grew in the Viking Age, settlement spread and intensified wherever farming was viable.
This dependence on agriculture when the availible land was limited in extent, as well as the search for wealth in the form of goods or land and the growing imposition of royal power, were proberbly the reasons for the Viking expansion.
What is clear is that Viking expansion was only made possible by the Vikings’ legendary superiority in shipbuilding technology and their supreme navigation skills, which allowed them to travel further, faster and more surely than their contemporaries. “Never before has such a terror appeared in Britain as we have now suffered from a pagan race, nor was it thought possilbe that such an inroad from the sea could be made”. So commented the English scholar Alcuin in A.D 793 when he heard of the Viking raid on Lindisfarne.
The Scandinavian tradition of shipbuilding during the Viking Age was characterised by slender and flexible boats, with symmetrical ends ind a true keel, producing longships capable of high speeds. Over recent years, our knowledge of functional and regional variations in Viking Age boats and ships has been greatly increased by the excavations of wrecked or abandoned vessels, but it is the elegant lines of the Gokstad ship which have come to symbolise the exceptional achievements of the Viking seafarers.
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Link will appear as Hanson, Marilee. "Viking Expansion" https://englishhistory.net/vikings/viking-expansion/, January 13, 2022