Between 790 and 1066 the Vikings or Norsemen dominated northern Europe. From the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Norway and Sweden they were feared by the victims of their ferocious raids. Historians today however view these "plunderers" in a different light, being able to look at different historical sources to piece together a more accurate picture of their culture. The Vikings were once seen as raiders but now, are seen more as explorers, craftsmen and traders.
There has been limited historical evidence available about the Vikings and this is why the impression of them as raiders has persisted. Initially, information about them was skewed. Some was written from the perspective of the victims of their attacks and was often written many years after the attacks. For example the English monk, Simeon of Durham, is often quoted about the raid on Lindisfarne in 793 yet he wrote his account two hundred years after it occurred.
Other evidence came from the Sagas, stories told by the Vikings of heroes and great deeds. Whilst probably based on true events these stories have a myth-like quality and are equally biased. Secondly, the Vikings left no written factual history to give an insight into their culture, with only short inscriptions using letters called Runes left on stones. Finally, all the available evidence about the Vikings was not really pieced together until archeological excavations in the 1960's began to highlight facts about their culture that took the spotlight off their raiding adventures. It is for all of these reasons that the Vikings are traditionally viewed as raiders.
However, the Vikings were both explorers and traders well before the raiding attacks that earned them their reputation as plunderers. Firstly, trading was the basis of the Vikings wealth and their explorations were to source new trading connections and gain...