Vikings were a Norse people who originally lived in Scandinavia. Towards the end of the 8th century, pressures of immigrating tribes from Eastern Europe as well as economic concerns forced the Vikings to seafaring, trading and exploring other regions of Europe.
This ushered in an era whereby Vikings extensively raided European shores, ultimately settling in many places and permanently altering the socio-political dynamics of the Europe of the time.
Historically, the Viking era of Europe is believed to have begun in the 790s. It was around this time Vikings began to make use of their seafaring skills to launch raids into northern European territories, most notably England and France.
Initial Viking raids targeted monasteries and villages and were meant to plunder valuables as well as secure slaves. The causes for these Viking raids is disputed.
Some historians believed the following the forced conversion of pagans to Christianity in different parts of Europe prompted them while others state that the lack of adequate resources back at their homes in Scandinavia forced the Vikings to take to raiding.
Viking raids in British Isles began in 790s. Until the late 9th century, these remained occasional raids but in 865, multiple Viking raiding bands joined together to form a sizable army.
This army then proceeded to subdue the Anglo-Saxon York and exert significant influence over other Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in England at the time.
By the end of the 9th century, Vikings were permanently established in England and even gained control of most of England by mid-9th century.
Like England, Ireland was also among the regions in British Isles most effected by Viking raids. Viking raids in Ireland began in 795 and by the mid-9th century, Vikings were establishing the earliest towns in Ireland, including modern-day Dublin.
Normandy, in modern-day northern France, was a key point of Viking raids during the 9th century. Using their base in Normandy, Vikings were able to launch raids deep into Frankish territories.
Unable to subdue them, the Frankish king agreed to hand over the duchy of Normandy to the Vikings in return for their vassalage to the Franks.
The Vikings in Normandy ultimately became the ancestors of the Normans who would eventually conquer England, establish Sicily as an independent kingdom, take over most of Italy and ultimately attempt an invasion of the Byzantine Empire as well.
By the 11th century, Vikings had become a permanent part of the European landscape. Back in Scandinavia, many independent kingdoms had emerged and Christianity had become a dominant force.
All this radically altered the Viking society so that raiding no longer remained a primary activity. Being able to travel to different parts of Europe now and trade freely also contributed to ending the Viking age of raiding and expansion.
However, European descendants of Vikings such as the Norman’s would continue to be a force to reckon with for yet another few centuries and would expand to many other parts of Europe as well.