“The Wrath of the Northmen”: The Vikings and their Memory

“The Wrath of the Northmen”: The Vikings and their Memory

Christina von Nolcken

Fathom Archive, The University of Chicago Library: Digital Collections (2004)


You won’t be surprised that the Vikings were normally viewed by those they came up against in a markedly negative light. Certainly this was true in England, the area most of our early records come from, and the one I am most familiar with. Indeed, the story of the Vikings is usually taken–and not just by English historians–as starting and ending with events in England. The end is often considered to be the 1066 invasion of England by the Normans (originally Vikings themselves who had settled in northern France and adopted the language they found there), though Viking-type raids continued, especially in the Scottish islands, until about the end of the twelfth century.

The beginning of the Vikings’ recorded story–which coincides with the beginning of recorded history for Norway–is usually marked by a Viking raid on a northern English monastery in 793. But 793 wasn’t quite the first time the Vikings had caused trouble in England. Here is the entry for 787 in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a work only compiled some century later, though it does seem to have used earlier written sources.

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