Monday, 16 March 2009

In praise of ... Vikings

There's no disputing that the Vikings have had a bad press - and not without reason. Immense whirlwinds and fiery dragons signalled their sacking of Lindisfarne in 793, states the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, while Alcuin of York thought such terror had never before been suffered in Britain. For the ensuing centuries the Vikings have been so synonymous with rape and pillage that the question "What did the Vikings ever do for us?" might seem to have no mitigating answer. In fact, as scholars have long known and as a conference at Cambridge university this weekend has heard, there was a lot more to the Vikings than pillage. Most Norse people of the nearly 300-year Viking period were farmers not raiders,

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