The historical importance of Viking-Age Waterford

The historical importance of Viking-Age Waterford

By Clare Downham

The Journal of Celtic Studies, Vol.4 (2004)

Introduction: The recent Viking-Age discoveries at Woodstown, near Waterford, in the Irish province of Munster, have highlighted the need to assess the importance of Waterford as a viking-settlement in the ninth and tenth centuries. Mainly drawing on written sources, I set out in this paper to discuss: (a) the site of Woodstown and the origins of Waterford; (b) Waterford’s relationship with other vikingsettlements in Ireland and (c) links with neighbouring Irish polities; (d) Waterford’s economic significance; and finally, (e) the external contacts of the port. I shall restrict my analysis to the years before A.D. 1035 when Waterford was ruled by viking-kings.

In Ireland, the Viking-Age is conventionally dated from the first recorded viking-raids in 795 until the Angevin invasion of 1171/2. The enduring contribution of these centuries is the foundation of major Irish ports – including Waterford, Dublin, and Limerick – which brought Ireland into closer contact with viking-colonies throughout Europe. The nature of vikings’ impact on Irish history is still hotly debated, and it is hoped that further research at Woodstown will shed new light on this formative period of Irish history.

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