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Did the Vikings get an unfair reputation? A Yale historian believes the Nordic people weren't quite as bad as we all think

By Matt Eliason

  • A new prospective? Portrayed as ruthless killers, the Vikings may have gotten an unfair reputation says one Yale historian. Photo/Sara

Anders Winroth, a Yale history professor and author of the book The Age of Vikings, believes the Nordic Vikings that have been portrayed as bloodthirsty killers might be on the wrong end of a public relations nightmare. Winroth is among the scholars that believe the Vikings were no worse than any of the other warriors of the medieval period. 

Not just warriors, but traders Evidence of the Viking trading posts suggests they might not have been as violent of a people as originally hypothesized. Photo/fjorukrain.is

Instead, Winroth believes the poor reputation of the Vikings came about as a result of the exaggerated European writings about the Vikings, which did not accurately depict the true characteristics of the Norse. The Yale professor states that instead of vicious killers, "...the Vikings were sort of free-market entrepreneurs."

Anders further expands on his hypothesis by bringing religion into the mix. Essentially, because Vikings were pagan, their actions played into a Christian narrative that portrayed the Norse as a devilish force, rather than the standard, prototypical warriors of the time period. There is evidence that Vikings were also craftsmen as well as businessmen that have established trading posts in Northern Canada.

Lastly, Winroth attempts to explain how the iconic "Viking raids" fit into his research. Winroth contents that Vikings raided primarily for pragmatic reasons, but evidence also proves that the Viking leaders often negotiated for payment, rather than just taking what they wanted. Despite Anders Winroth's beliefs, many historians, and the general public, still believe the Viking violence defines the barbarian nature of the Norse people. 

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