A chronological journey through the history of Scandinavia. Geographically, we cover the five modern Nordic countries of Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Sweden and Finland—as well as a few other bits and pieces here and there where it‘s relevant. Visit the SHP shop: bit.ly/podshpshop Make a donation: patreon.com/scandinavianhistory
Welcome to the first episode of the Scandinavian History Podcast.
This first episode is dedicated to Scandinavia from the time the ice started to recede after the last Ice Age until the beginning of the Viking Age.
Music: The Vikings by Alexander Nakarada serpentsoundstudios.com promoted by free-stock-music.com Attribution 4.0 Int creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Who were the Vikings, and why did they decide to start plundering and killing? Was it really because of something some random West-Saxon bailiff said? Or because the Northumbrians cut their hair in a way that upset God?
Find out in this episode, when we kick off the Viking Age with the infamous attack on the monastery at Lindisfarne.
After the initial attack on Lindisfarne, the Vikings shifted their focus away from England--settling the islands off the coast of Scotland and raiding in Ireland. The Shetland and Orkney Islands, as well as the Hebrides and the Isle of Man, were soon dominated by Scandinavian settlers. In Ireland, they established colonies that remain important urban centers to this day.
The Scandinavians who settled in Ireland became an integral part of the social and economic fabric of the island. For a few generations, the Viking Kings of Dublin were a major power not only in Irish politics, but also across the Irish Sea.
Even though they eventually lost their political and military power, the influence of the Scandinavians linger on the Emerald Isle. It can still be seen both in local place names as the Irish g...
If you know the name of only one Viking, chances are that name is Ragnar Lodbrok. In this episode, we take a closer look at the legend of Ragnar and his sons. For hundreds of years, this legend shaped the way Scandinavians understood their own past. It was a source of both fascination and pride, and kings—as well as regular Scandinavians with an inflated ego—claimed to be descendants of the Ragnarssons.
Despite the corona quarantine, I’ve managed to record a new episode!
In the year 865, a large force of Vikings invaded the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. Everyone was robbed, and those who didn’t submit to Scandinavian rule were also killed. King Edmund of East Anglia was turned into a pincushion by Ivar the Boneless. Only Wessex continued to defy the onslaught. Its teenage king Alfred fought the Viking forces that are known to history as t...
Eventually, the Viking leader Guthrum signed a deal with King Alfred of Wessex, establishing the Danelaw. It wasn’t really a state, but it was still annoying enough to the West-Saxons that they would devote a century to eradicating it, establishing England in the process. Even though they succeeded in the end, the Scandinavians have left a mark in the English language, archaeological finds and the gene pool that can still be seen t...
Under Scandinavian control, the city the Vikings called Jorvik flourished and grew into a center of commerce and trade in the late 9th century. The Scandinavians connected Jorvik to the world far beyond the borders of England, turning it into one of the most important cities in the British Isles.
Despite the financial success, though, the political situation was a mess.
In 911, after decades of Viking attacks, the Frankish King Charles the Simple made a deal with the Scandinavian warlord Rollo: in exchange for land and a noble title the Viking promised to defend the Channel coast from further invasions. Rollo accepted, and established a dynasty that would change French—as well as English—history forever.
In the late 9th century, Scandinavians more or less stumbled upon a new piece of real estate in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. They eventually decided to call it Iceland, and started to populate it. The early settlers assumed that its lush forests and promise of political independence would last forever. They would soon be proven wrong.
In the year 930, the Icelandic Commonwealth was established. The Icelanders set up a libertarian utopia of personal freedom and sheep farming, governed by the Althing—an assembly that passed laws and settled disputes—but that had absolutely zero executive power. Instead, law enforcement was left to the citizens themselves. It worked better than you might have expected.
When he was outlawed in Iceland for killing some people, Erik the Red sailed west and explored a new land. He called it “Greenland” to lure unsuspecting Icelanders to join his colonization project. His son—Leif Eriksson—continued in the family tradition (of exploring, not killing) and became the first European to reach the continent we know as North America.
Vikings traded and raided along the great rivers (almost) connecting the Baltic and the Black Seas. They sold slaves, furs and other goods, and in return brought home enormous amounts of silver from Byzantium and Baghdad. Some Scandinavians settled along the route and set up a network of city states they called Gardariki, or “The Realm of Cities”.
Constantinople with its golden palaces, splendid churches and lively markets captured the Viking imagination like few other places. They simply called it the Great City, Miklagard. For centuries Scandinavians would go there in the hopes of making a fortune trading in slaves, furs and silk. Some also worked as imperial bodyguards, impressing and scaring the locals with their long...
The Vikings who travelled the furthest away from home, reached Muslim lands around the Caspian Sea and in the Caucasus Mountains. There, they encountered men who didn’t wear pants, but rather caftans or tunics, so naturally the Vikings called the place Serkland—or “Gown Land”. Many a Scandinavian trader made a fortune selling furs and slaves in Serkland. Many others lost their lives fighting local armies.
Most Viking Age Scandinavians weren’t really Vikings. Instead of gallivanting across the seas in search for gold and glory, they spent their lives eking out a meager existence at some isolated farm somewhere where the summers were too short and the winters too long.
This episode is dedicated to a closer look at their daily lives.
Even though the Vikings had a rich literary tradition, it was mostly oral. The sagas that have survived were written down after the Viking Age is conventionally considered to have ended and the Middle Ages begun. But the Vikings weren’t illiterate. They used their own unique alphabet—the runes—and they've left us plenty of runic inscriptions all over the place. Except in Iceland.
The pre-Christian religion in Scandinavia is largely shrouded in mystery—not least because of the Church’s best efforts to eradicate the memory of its predecessor. Nonetheless, thanks to some eyewitness accounts from horrified Christian missionaries, snippets from sagas and the work of modern-day archeologists, we still know a thing or two about Old Norse religious practices, ceremonies and sacrifices.
Even today, almost a thousand years after the Scandinavians abandoned the old gods for Christianity, people are fascinated by the stories about the heroic and hammer-wielding (albeit slightly thick) Thor, his dad Odin—the one-eyed King of the gods—and Loki, Odin’s evil blood brother.
Various European rulers started to send missionaries to Scandinavia already before the violent Viking raids really became a thing. But it was slow going in the first century or so. Even though a handful of Scandinavians did switch to Jesus, Christianity only took off when local kings started to put pressure on their subjects to be baptized.
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