Economic and political development in the Viking Era

Swedish stamps, circa 1990. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

In The Vikings, Else Roesdahl provides a great description of how economic growth took place during the Viking era and how political development was both possible as a result and was simultaneously required for the growth to continue.

Early on men in an area would gather in “things”, local assemblies to resolve conflicts. Local yarls (rulers or strongmen, vaguely similar to a small city mayor) struggled, schemed, and fought to gain influence over larger areas.

Without a modest level of security and property rights, one dare not risk scarce capital in building a foundry or gather lots of goods for trading.

As regional yarls, or petty kings, gain influence, more stability developed.

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Thoughts on the legacy of the Vikings and economic development

A group of armed Vikings, standing on river shore. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

This blog focuses on the finances of ancient times, with minimal focus on the overall society and culture.

Perspectives of the Vikings have varied over time, ranging from them being vicious brutes pillaging everything they could find (according to the Christian monks suffering at the hands of the Vikings) to brave explorers and traders.

For just this post, I’ll touch on those issues. Actually, the following comments all affect the economic world of the Viking Age.

Chapter 3 of The Oxford Illustrated History of the Vikings points out the occasional tendency to romanticize the Vikings. Some focus on their brave exploration and merchant trading abilities. There’s even a school of thought that considers them to be misunderstood victims of hostile PR reports from Christian monks. Another school of thought emphasizes there were merely one part of the typically brutal medieval age.

In The Viking Legacy, the closing chapter of The Oxford Illustrated History of the Vikings, Peter Sawyer explores the political, cultural, and economic changes during the Viking Age.

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