The vikings introduction

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The Vikings came from three countries of Scandinavia: Denmark, Norway and Sweden. The name 'Viking' comes from a language called 'Old Norse' and means 'a pirate raid'. Most Vikings who sailed overseas were searching for better land for their farms. Their land was not very good for farming. Norway was very hilly, Sweden was covered in forests and Denmark had a lot of sandy home land.


In AD 787 three Viking longships landed in southern England. The English called the Viking invaders 'Danes' but they came from Norway as well as Denmark. Norwegian Vikings or the ‘Norse' sailed to Scotland, where they made settlements in the north and on the islands.


The Vikings built fast ships for raiding and war. These ships were 'dragon-ships' or 'longships'. Viking longships could sail in shallow water. So they could travel up rivers as well as across the sea. In a raid, a ship could be hauled up on a beach.


Some of the names of places in Britain are made up of Viking words names ending in “by” or “thorpe” e.g. Derby/ Scunthorpe. The Vikings captured York (Jorvik).

Most people lived on farms. The Vikings lived in long rectangular houses made with upright timbers (wood), wattle and daub or stone. They were usually one room with a cooking fire in the middle. The smoke escaped through a hole in the roof. Animals and people lived in the same building.


Men wore tunics and trousers and women wore a long dress with a pinafore over it. Their clothes were fastened with belts and brooches


The Vikings worshipped many different gods, but there were three that were especially important – Odin / Thor / Frey


King Alfred the Great, king of Wessex, paid the Vikings (Danes) to leave his kingdom alone. They did for five years then they returned. Alfred defeated them and allowed the Vikings to settle in part of England, which became known as the Danelaw.

King Cnut (Canute) - 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. The money was called 'Danegeld'. The Vikings took the gold, but still attacked anyway. Ethelred's soldiers killed Viking families in the Danelaw. King Sweyn of Denmark was angry and invaded England. Ethelred ran away. In 1016 Sweyn's son, Cnut, became king of England. He was a Christian and a strong ruler.

Athelstan was the first king of all England, and Alfred the Great's grandson.

Edward the Confessor was king of England from 1042 to 1066.

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