How the Vikings Saved Europe and Got a Terrible Reputation
History teaches us that the Vikings were brutal, thieving invaders, but much of that history was written by Viking victims: European monks. New evidence says otherwise.
They say history is written by the victors, but what if the victims are the ones with the pens?
That is the bizarre circumstance surrounding the history of the Vikings, since the centuries-old myth that has come down to us about their brutal savagery originated with their victims—monks and priests—who had the monopoly on writing in that time.
As a result, the image we have today of the marauding Vikings is both wildly off the mark, and ignores the major contributions they made in shaping Europe during the Middle Ages. That demystification and deep dive into the world of one of history’s most iconic people is the subject of a new book, The Age of the Vikings by Anders Winroth. Not only are the Vikings completely misunderstood, he argues, but they may have saved Europe.
The Vikings weren’t picky about their raiding targets, but the short-term gains in booty and ransom achieved by attacking monasteries resulted in the Vikings being relegated to the “vicious barbarian” category of history. The monks in those monasteries were the only historians around at that time.