Vikings in France and England

The Lindisfarne memorial stone

Vikings in France and England: Military, Pecuniary, and Regional Aspects that led one settlement to Medieval Domination, 800-1200

By Danielle Turner

Welebaethan Journal of History (2014)

The Lindisfarne memorial stone

Abstract: Danielle Turner juxtaposes Viking raiding and settlement in medieval France and England to answer the question why Normandy (on the French side) became a major player in the medieval world, while the Danelaw (on the English side) did not. The perceptions, importance, and recordings of Viking pillaging and invasion varied between the two regions, creating a long-term residence for the Norsemen in one and ending in a massacre in the other. Turner utilizes a variety of sources including chronicles, annals, and first-hand accounts of the Viking attacks: The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle(s), Gesta Normannorum, Annals of St-Bertin, Flodoard of Reims, Annals of Fulda, Royal Frankish Annals, Dudo of Saint-Quentin’s works, and History of the Franks.

Introduction: Most people know the stories of Viking raiding and plundering, but historians must make inquiries beyond popular belief. For generations, scholars wrote about raiding, warfare, and long-term effects of Viking settlement, but failed to answer the question of why this succeeded in France and failed in England. The Viking Age occurred from approximately 800 to 1100 CE, starting with the raid on the Lindisfarne Monastery in England and ending with the Norman Conquest of 1066. The classification “Viking” often denotes the entire Scandinavian people. Northmen venturing for plunder and power represented only a small portion of the Norse population, most of which lived as farmers. The main reasons scholars deduced for the departure of Vikings from Scandinavia include determinism in technology, environment, demographics, politics, and ideology. During this time, few people referred to Francia and Anglia as France and England; however, these terms appear here as general labels for the modern geographic areas. Differences in military defenses and responses to raiding and settlement resulted in massacre in England, but allowed for growth and power in France, culminating the Viking Era with the Norman Invasion.

Annals and chronicles of medieval France and England justified this perspective. The Annals of St-Bertin and The Annals of Fulda provide key information on the attacks from the French side. Both serve as principle sources for ninth-century France. The Annals of St-Bertin report on happenings in the west and The Annals of Fulda function as their eastern counterpart. Prudentius of Troyes wrote early entries in the Annals of St-Bertin, and after his death in 866, Hincmar of Rheims continued the work until the reports ended in 882. This text illustrates Viking attacks and responses of the French because the writings came from areas of Viking activity. Although composed further away from raids, The Annals of Fulda still include many details on their invasions. Both sources mostly recount the acts of secular rulers with an outlook based more on the court than clergy or monastic matters.

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