The Vikings

The Vikings were pirates and raiders, traders, settlers, explorers and farmers.

Some people called them Northmen or Danes, for their homeland was in Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Vikings raiders began to attack the British Isles in 789 and were soon feared far and wide.


Vikings longships were sleek, wooden vessels about 18 meters long.

They had a single sail and could speed through the waves. The oars were manned by a crew of 30 or more. Ships like these carried Vikings far to the west, to Iceland, Greenland and North America.

The Vikings were not just interested in raiding and stealing. They realized that the British Isles provided good farmland and safe areas for settlements.


Vikings warriors attacked monasteries, villages and towns, carrying away treasures, cattle or slaves.

They were armed with round shields, axes, swords and spears and wore helmets of leather or iron. Some spent the gold they robbed buying tunics made of tough iron rings, called mail.


In the 840s and 850s, Vikings warriors began to settle in Britain and Ireland.

They lived in villages and seaports and captured large towns such as York. The founded the city of Dublin in Ireland.


Vikings fought against the Anglo-Saxons and soon controlled large areas of England.

In 1016 England even had a Danish king called Cnut I. Vikings also ruled the Isle of Man and large areas of Scotland and Ireland.



Do you know what the word berserk means? To the Vikings it meant “bearskin shirt”, as worn by warriors who worked themselves up into a frenzy before going into the battle. We still use the word today to describe someone who is violently angry.

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