Primary History

Vikings: What happened to the Vikings?

  • Jorvik's last king

    Throughout the Viking Age, there were many battles between the Vikings and the English. In the 9th century, the English king Alfred the Great stopped the Vikings taking over all of England. In the 10th century the English reconquered much of the land held by Vikings. In 954, they drove out Eric Bloodaxe, the last Viking king of Jorvik. After Eric was killed in battle, the Vikings in England agreed to be ruled by England's king.

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  • King Cnut

    In Viking times, a king had to be strong to fight and keep his land. In the early AD 1000s, England had a weak king. His name was Ethelred 'the Unready'. Ethelred gave Viking raiders gold to stop their attacks. This money was called 'Danegeld'. The Vikings took the gold, but still attacked anyway. So in 1002, Ethelred's soldiers killed Viking families in the Danelaw. This made King Sweyn of Denmark so angry he invaded England. Ethelred had to run away. In 1016 Sweyn's son Cnut became king of England. Cnut (also known as Canute) was a Christian and a strong ruler. For the next few years England was part of his Viking empire, along with Denmark and Norway.

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  • The Norman Conquest

    In 1066 England was conquered by William, Duke of Normandy. The Normans were the descendants of Vikings who had settled in France. They took over all of England, including the Danelaw. In 1069 the Normans burned Jorvik. This was the end of the Viking Age in England.

    In Scotland, Viking earls went on ruling some islands for hundreds of years. They were driven from the mainland of Scotland by 1100, but remained 'lords of the isles' (the Western Isles) until the 1200s. The islands of Orkney and Shetland were more Norwegian than Scottish. They did not officially become part of Scotland until 1469.

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  • What the Vikings left behind

    Archaeologists find the remains of Viking houses, burial sites, treasure hoards, carvings on stones, and writing carved in runes. Vikings left their mark on Britain in other ways too, such as language, Lots of familiar English words originally came from the Vikings' Norse language. Examples are 'husband', 'egg', 'law' and 'knife'. Place names show where Vikings once lived. A place with a name ending in -by, -thorpe or -ay was almost certainly settled by Vikings. The Vikings also left behind many stories about real people, called 'sagas'. Scotland has its own saga from the Viking Age, called 'Orkneyinga Saga' or 'The History of the Earls of Orkney'.

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Fun Facts
  • Many Vikings had nicknames, such as Keik ('bent backwards') or Vifil ('beetle').

  • Snort, lump and scrawny are examples of words we got from the Vikings.

  • The Old English words for a child were cild or bearn, similar to the Viking barn. Some Northerners still call children 'bairns'.

  • Viking shoes were often painted. They liked blue and red shoes.

  • Vikings made cloth from linen (from the flax plant) as well as from wool (from sheep).

  • Vikings did not use pens much - they carved letters with a knife.

  • The Viking runes alphabet had only 16 letters, not 26 like the one we use.

  • Vikings kept bees, for honey (they had no sugar) and for beeswax. A favourite Viking fruit was the sloe, but sloes taste bitter, so people probably ate them with honey.

  • One Viking cooking method was to bake meat in a pit filled with hot ashes from a fire and then covered with turf and soil.

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Jump to: A-D | E-G | H-L | M-O | P-S | T-Z

A to D

ale
A strong drink made from barley.
amber
Hardened tree sap, used to make jewellery.
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
A history of England begun in the 800s.
archaeologist
A person who finds out about the past by looking at old objects or buildingsthat are buried under the ground.
blacksmith
Another name for a smith. A worker who makes things of metal, usually iron.
blood-feud
An argument between two families that involves fighting or killings.
brooch
Ornament used to fasten clothing.
buttermilk
Watery liquid left over when butter is made from milk.
carving
A design cut out of wood.
charm
A magical object or words, to protect a person from harm.
chieftain
The leader of a village or small group of people.
Christian
A person who follows the religion taught by Jesus Christ.
colonize
A settlement founded in one country by people from another country.
compass
A device for finding direction (east, west, north, south).
conquer
To beat an enemy and control them using force.
Danelaw
The area of England ruled by the Vikings.
descendants
People who are related to earlier people, in a direct line.
dragon-ship
Another name for a longship.

E to G

explorer
Someone who travels to unfamiliar places to discover new things.
feast
A special meal for a large group of people.
figurehead
A carved wooden piece at the front of a ship.
Freeman
A person who is not a slave and free to choose who he or she worked for.

H to L

helmet
Hat made of leather or iron worn by a soldier to protect his head.
hoard
A hidden treasure, usually buried in the soil.
jet
A kind of black stone used to make jewellery.
keel
Long wooden bottom part of a ship, that gives it strength.
invaders
People who try to take over land from other people.
landmark
A natural feature that helps a traveller find his way, such as a mountain, a rock, an island, or a group of trees.
launch
To put a new ship in the water.
longship
A Viking ship with a sail and oars. Sometimes called dragon-ship. A Viking ship with a sail and oars. Sometimes called dragon-ship.

M to O

mail coat
Armour made from chain mail (metal rings), worn like a shirt.
manure
Animal waste such as dung put on soil to make it fertile for crops.
mast
Tall wooden pole from which a ship's sail is hung.
merchant
A trader, someone who buys and sells things.
monastery
The building where monks live.
norse myths
Stories told by the Vikings about gods and goddesses, giants and strange creatures.

P to S

pagan
A person who believed in many gods.
raven
A large black bird of the crow family.
rivets
Bits of metal hammered into holes to join ship planks or metal sheets together.
runes
The name given to the Viking alphabet.
settlement
An area where people live.
shield
A large piece of wood or metal held in one arm for protection in battle.
sickle
A curved knife used for cutting grain stalks at harvest time.
slave
A person who is not free but is treated as someone else's property.
smith
A worker who makes things of metal, usually iron.
spices
Plants such as pepper which can be used to flavour and preserve foods.
spinning
Twisting and drawing out sheep wool into long thin thread.
spit
In cooking, a rod or stick on which meat is stuck to roast over a fire.

T to Z

thatched
A roof covered in straw.
Thing
An open-air meeting where Vikings gathered to discuss the law.
trader
A person who sells goods.
turf
A layer of grass cut with roots and soil, that can be used to roof a house.
walrus ivory
The tusk, or sticking-out tooth, of a walrus (a large sea mammal), which can be carved.
weaving
Making cloth on a machine called a loom.