Settlers - The Vikings for Kids and Teachers Illustration

The Vikings

The Vikings got around! They loved to settle new areas. Their homeland was in Scandinavia, or modern day Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. It was difficult for farmers to grow crops in this area. The winters were fierce. The summers short. The mountains high. The soil sandy. And the families large. As the population grew, some Vikings remained in Scandinavia, because there was some good farmland. But many Vikings moved their families to newly conquered lands.

This exodus or immigration began with Viking warriors. Viking warriors raided and looted people in various parts of Europe. They also traded. Treasures were brought back home. After a while, Viking warriors did more than loot; they conquered people in other areas. Once areas were under Viking rule, Viking farmers and their families were encouraged to move into these conquered lands. There was a mass movement of Viking settlers around mid 800 AD.

Viking Settlers in Britain: Viking warriors attacked the Christian monastaries along the eastern coast of Britain. The Vikings found the monastaries easy pickings as the monks had no weapons. It was not long before Viking farmers moved to Britain and settled along the eastern coast. The Vikings renamed this area Danelaw. They also settled along the western coast of Scotland and Ireland. The tribes who already lived in Britain did not welcome the Viking settlers, not in Danelaw, not in Scotland, and not in Ireland. Battles and skirmishes between various Vikings and Anglo-Saxon tribes and clans were constantly breaking out until a new group arrived, the Normans. The Normans defeated both the Viking settlers and the Anglo-Saxons. After the Battle of Hastings in 1066, Britain fell under Norman rule.

Where did the Vikings settle in Britain?


What happened to the Vikings who lived in Britain (cartoon, bbc)

The Vikings in Europe: Britain was not the only area the Vikings settled in Europe. They also raided the Netherlands, Germany, and France. The French actually paid the Vikings to leave, which they did. But they came back. The Vikings followed the Baltic Sea to Russia and settled there. From Russia, the Vikings attacked the Byzantine Empire. They lost that one. They also lost when they tried to invade Spain and Portugal; they tried several times, but Muslim warriors always drove them away.

The Vikings in Iceland: They had great luck settling Iceland. The Vikings were organized. When they entered a new land, they set up rules on how much land a settler could claim. Land was free, but you had to follow the rules. In Iceland, the Viking leaders made it a rule that a man could claim as much land as he could enclose with controlled bonfires built around a space in one day. A woman could claim as much land as she could lead a young cow around in one day. This gave every family a large farm of their own, and left land available for other settlers as they arrived. By 900AD or so, there were over 50,000 Vikings in Iceland.  

The Vikings in Greenland: Eric the Red led some Viking settlers to Greenland, where of course they established a colony. That's what the Vikings did. First Viking warriors conquered, then Viking farmers followed. The Vikings always gave the areas they settled Viking names, many of which are still in use today. 

The Vikings in North America: Around 1000AD, long before Columbus discovered America, Leif Eriksson landed on the coast of North America. He named this new land Vinland. But he did not stay. Later on, a group of Vikings settlers did establish a colony. But it did not flourish. The settlers had many problems with the Native Americans in the area. After a while, the Viking settlers gave up and left North America.

The impact of the Vikings and their legacy: In their travels, the Vikings brought with them many important things including law, order, democracy, rights of women, and their wonderful stories of elves and trolls and magical creatures and Norse mythology.