Source Material: The Vikings

A selection of Primary and near-contemporary sources on the Viking Age. These are designed to provide teachers with easy access to a rich bank of source material that they can use to enhance teaching and learning of history. The Viking Age is typically covered in Primary Schools in the United Kingdom, so sources here reflect the nature of that curriculum. 

Danes about to invade England. From "Miscellany on the life of St. Edmund" from the 12th century.
Danes about to invade England. From “Miscellany on the life of St. Edmund” from the 12th century.

Vikings: Source Material

Source: Al Tarsushi visits Hedeby. A wonderful source that makes it clear that trade was truly international. The exchange of goods, ideas and awareness of other cultures can all be extracted from this source. Al Tarsushi was a Muslim trader who sailed from Moor held Cordoba in Spain to Scandinavia. His report on the significant trading base at Hedeby is fascinating and incredibly useful in Key Stage 2 History lessons.

Source: The Viking Raid on Lindisfarne. An account of the infamous Viking raid on Holy Island. Teachers can link this with the letter sent by Alcuin to the Bishop of Lindisfarne to see how the raid was viewed in terms of the events and the perceived reasons for it. The raiding can also be compared with other Viking raids, such as those up the River Rhine or along the coast of the Iberian Peninsula.

Source: Alcuin’s letter to the Bishop of Lindisfarne. Alcuin was an English churchman who went on to work for the great Frankish Emperor, Charlemagne. He was a great scholar and wrote many letters, lots of which were copied and stored in libraries at the time. This source is his reaction to the Viking raid on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne.

Source: Viking raids into the Rhineland, c840sAD. As with the raids on the British Isles the Vikings explored the Rivers of mainland Europe. The Rhine offered the Vikings a navigable river that could take them deep into the continent. Here we look at one such raid. A map illustrating other raids, which increased in number following King Alfred’s victory in England, is included for reference.

Source: Edmund the Martyr, 870AD. Edmund was King of East Anglia. He was faced with demands to submit to the Great Heathen Army but chose to fight instead of submitting. His fate was brutal. The source and depictions of his end are perhaps not the most suitable to use with young children but the method used is worth noting as a teacher due to its ruthlessness and apparent barbarity.

Source: Viking raids on the Iberian Peninsula. The Vikings travelled, raided and raided quite extensively. This source is a Moors account of Viking raids on the Iberian Peninsular. Remember too that the Vikings could access the Mediterranean via the Black Sea.

Source: The Viking Siege of Paris, 885/886AD. One of the most famous sieges in history. The Vikings besieged Paris twice. This, the second of those sieges was the longer and more decisive of the sieges.

Source: Archbishop Wulfstan’s Sermon ‘ Wolf to the English’ c1014AD. It is easy to forget that the Viking Age in England lasted into the eleventh century. This famous source is the Archbishop of York’s sermon on the situation as he saw it in 1014.

Source: Egil’s Saga. The full text of this famous Icelandic Saga. The Vikings themselves wrote very little. The exception were the Vikings who settled on Iceland. They wrote a number of text types, the most famous of which are the Sagas. Egil’s Saga is one of the best known. This page includes the entire Saga, so isn’t a quick and easy read (71000 words).

Source: Cnut’s Law on Intestacy. Also listed on our Saxons page.

Do you want to find other Primary Sources for use in your lessons, or for research purposes? Visit our Primary Sources page to see which areas we currently have a range of sources for.

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