Viking invasions, a French failure?

Viking invasions, a French failure? French Historians never studied Viking invasions in France: explanations

By Joël Supéry

Published Online (2014)

A Viking siege of Paris, 19th century portrayal

Abstract: Vikings never interested French Historians. Pagan, illiterate, barbaric, Germanic, everything was despicable in the eyes of the French Historians of the 19th century. These looters came, but never managed to corrupt our noble and proud Latin civilization. Only Normandy has kept the souvenir of that period. Norman Historians began to study the Vikings, but only as founders of Normandy: they studied the “Danes” North of river Loire and decided to ignore “Norwegians” who were active south of it. An absurd choice which was welcome by Historians of the south, who consider Viking invasions as a non-event: Vikings disappeared in a two centuries documentary gap. In other words, Viking invasions in France are still a virgin subject in 2014.

Introduction: Jacques le Goff, the famous French Medievalist is writing “To the West, the Norwegians above all attacked Ireland and the Danes the regions bordering on the North Sea and the Channel.” He doesn’t say a word about Aquitaine along the shore of the bay of Biscay. This silence is not incidental. The author goes on. “To pick up some main events: in 841 Rouen was plundered; in 842 Quentovic was destroyed; in 843 Nantes was sacked; in 844, the Vikings ventured as far as Corunia, Lisbon and even Seville; in 845 the Vikings ‘ targets included Hamburg and Paris… In 859 they penetrated as far as Italy, up to Pisa; this was to be their furthest-flung raid geographically.”

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Le Goff doesn’t say a word of the area between Loire and Spain that is Aquitaine. Le Goff doesn’t mention the falls of Dax, Aire and Tarbes in 840, the raid on Toulouse in 844, the falls of Saintes in 845, Bordeaux in 848, Périgueux in 849, Bordeaux again in 855, Clermont in 856, Angoulême, Limoges and Poitiers in 863. All the cities of Aquitaine were taken one after the other before the invasion of England, but the Historian chooses to keep silent. In fact, Le Goff ignores deliberately all the events touching Aquitaine, this rich kingdom whose king Pippin II was fighting on the side of the Norsemen. Why such a silence?

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