Distribution of wealth at the end of the Viking Age

Icelandic farm recreation. Stretch you mind and picture a farm in Norway or Sweden. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

How concentrated was wealth at the end of the Viking Age?

In lecture 34 of his course The Vikings, from The Great Courses Prof Kenneth Harl tries to frame up the dispersal of wealth in Scandinavia at the end of the Viking Age.

He makes the following estimates of the concentration of land ownership in the late 12th and earliest 13th century. This would reflect the increased trade and improved agriculture that occurred as Norway, Sweden, and Denmark fully embraced Christianity and had well-developed territorial monarchies.

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Guesses on how much loot the Vikings hauled out of Europe – #2

If this was your view from the shore during the 900s or early 1000s, you were about to have a really bad day. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Here are some more guesses for how much gold and silver the Vikings extracted from Frankia and England during their plundering raids. Keep in mind these are official payments and don’t include what the Vikings were able to take from monasteries or the local populace. Also doesn’t include any guess at the amount of food they took as they devoured the fields and storehouses.

The Sea Wolves: A History of the Vikings by Lars Brownworth says the payouts from the Franks to the Vikings totaled 120,000 pound of silver.

About a third of all the coins minted in France made their way to Viking hoards in Scandinavia.

Mr. Brownworth reports another wave of attacks by Norwegian Vikings starting in 991 was remarkable lucrative. Here are a few fun, summarized highlights from pages 228 through 232.

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Guesses on how much loot the Vikings hauled out of Europe – #1

Viking Wall” by hans s is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

I’ve read a number of guesses on how much gold and silver the Vikings looted on various excursions around England and continental Europe. A few posts will describe those estimates.

The first recap is explained by Professor Kenneth Harl in his course The Vikings, from The Great Courses. (By the way, with minimal effort you can find all their courses at huge discounts from the list price.)

In lecture 26, Prof. Harl touches briefly on the guesses for silver taken out of Europe by the Vikings.

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