SEMINAR VII: The Impact of the Vikings on the Frankish Kingdoms (Lent, Week 3)

In this seminar we attempt to assess the impact that the Viking raids and incursions into Frankia had upon the development of the Frankish kingdoms in the ninth century, with particular reference to the kingdom of Charles the Bald (840-77). Roughly speaking this question could be said to break down into several parts:

  1. What impact did the Vikings have upon the development of Frankish society? (Here, it is useful to consider the components elements of the population: thus, what impact did the Viking raids have upon Frankia's lords, peasants, monasteries and churches? Did anyone prosper as a result of the raids? Who lost out?)
  2. What impact did the Vikings have upon the development of the Frankish economy?
  3. What impact did the raids have upon the development of the Frankish state? Be warned: historians - not least the great pioneering social historian Marc Bloch - used to think that the Viking raids were one of, if not the, chief cause of the decline of royal authority in western Frankia that is evident from around 885, but more recent historians are not so impressed by this argument.

In order to answer these questions we must first attempt to answer a whole series of preliminary questions to do with the nature of the Viking threat to the survival and prosperity of the Frankish kingdoms:

  1. What were the aims of the Viking warbands and their leaders?
  2. How were these small bands of warriors from a relatively backward northern region able to enjoy such great success in raiding Frankish territory?
  3. How, furthermore, did the impact of the Vikings vary from one region to another? How did the impact of their raids vary across the course of the ninth and early tenth centuries?

In answering these questions there are two important factors to bear mind: one is the growth of trading networks linking Frankia to the Baltic and the efforts of kings in this development; the other is the way in which internal dynastic politics in both Denmark and Francia shaped relations between the two regions.

Mandatory Preparation

Students should read three items from the following list:

  1. Coupland, S., and J. L. Nelson, 'The Vikings on the Continent', History Today (December, 1988), pp. 12-19. Journals L6. Available online at Academic Search Premier.
  2. Coupland, S., 'The Vikings on the Continent in Myth and History', History, 88 (2003), 186-203. Journals L6. Online at Academic Search Premier.
  3. Coupland, S., 'From Poachers to Gamekeepers: Scandinavian Warlords and Carolingian Kings', Early Medieval Europe, 7 (1998), 85-114. Online at Academic Search Premier.
  4. Nelson, J. L., 'The Frankish Empire', in P. H. Sawyer (ed.), The Oxford Illustrated History of the Vikings (Oxford, 1997), pp. 19-47. MBBV7.*
  5. Nelson, J. L., Charles the Bald (London, 1992). MSDP.

Other Reading

  • Brink, S., and N. Price (eds), The Viking World, Routledge Worlds (London, 2009). MBBV7.
  • Christiansen, E., The Norsemen in the Viking Age, The Peoples of Europe (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002). Not directly useful for the present seminar, but an important revisionist critique of the traditional view of the Vikings. MBBV. There are 3 copies, 2 on short loan.
  • Coupland, S., 'The Rod of God's Wrath or the People of God's Wrath? The Carolingians' Theology of the Viking Invasions', Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 42 (1991), 535-54. Journals P6.
  • Haywood, J., The Penguin Atlas of the Vikings (Harmondsworth, 1995). MBBV18.
  • Helle, K. (eds.), The Cambridge history of Scandinavia, vol. 1, Prehistory to 1520 (Cambridge, 2003). See esp. pt.2, 'From Vikings to Kings' (pp. 103-234), which includes essays by P. Sawyer, 'The Viking Expansion' (pp. 105-20), by E. Roesdahl and P. Meulengracht Sørensen, 'Viking Culture' (pp. 121-46) and by I. Skovgaard-Petersen, 'The Making of the Danish Kingdom' (pp. 168-83). MO
  • Hodges, R. C., and B. Hobley (eds.), The Rebirth of the Town in the West, AD 700-1050 (London, 1988). Oversize MBQ4.
  • Hodges, R. C., 'Goodbye to the Vikings?', History Today, 54.9 (2004), 29-30. Journals L6. Rpt in R. C. Hodges, Goodbye to the Vikings? Re-reading Early Medieval Archaeology (London: Duckworth, 2006), pp. 157-62. MB4.
  • Hodges, R. C., Dark Age Economics: The Origins of Towns and Trade AD 600-1000 (London, 1982). MBH. See also R. C. Hodges, 'Dark Age Economics Revisited', in his Goodbye to the Vikings? Re-reading Early Medieval Archaeology (London, 2006), pp. 63-71. MB4.
  • Jones, G., A History of the Vikings (Oxford, 1968). MBBV.* A classic version of the traditional view.
  • Jordan, Paul, North Sea Saga, The Medieval World (Harlow, 2004). DWdb3.
  • Kirkby, M. H., The Vikings (Oxford, 1977). MBBV.
  • McCormick, M., 'New Light on the 'Dark Ages': How the Slave Trade Fuelled the Carolingian Economy', Past and Present, 177 (2002), 17-54. Journals L6. Online at Oxford University Press Journals / Ingenta Select. Helpful for thinking about similarities, in the economic sphere, between Frankish merchantile elites and Vikings.
  • McCormick, M., Origins of the European Economy: Communications and Commerce, AD 300-900 (Cambridge, 2001). MBD.E. A fuller version of the argument developed in the article above.
  • Randsborg, K., The Viking Age in Denmark: The Formation of the State (London, 1980). MOMP.
  • Richards, J. D., The Vikings: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2005). MBBV.
  • Roesdahl, E., The Vikings, trs. S. M. Margeson and K. Williams (Harmondsworth, 1992). MBBV.
  • Roesdahl, E., Viking-Age Denmark, trs. S. Margeson and K. Williams (London, 1982) MOMP.
  • Sawyer, P. H., Kings and Vikings: Scandinavia and Europe AD 700-1100 (London, 1982). MBBV.*
  • Sawyer, P. H., 'The Age of the Vikings and Before', in P. H. Sawyer (ed.), The Oxford Illustrated History of the Vikings (Oxford, 1997), pp. 1-18. MBBV7.*
  • Sawyer, P. H., The Age of the Vikings (2nd edn., London, 1971). MBBV.*
  • Wallace-Hadrill, J. M., The Vikings in Frankia, The Stenton Lecture for 1974 (Reading, 1975) [pamphlets MSDV], rpt. in his Early Medieval History (Oxford, 1975), pp. 217-36. MVC.

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