For centuries, they have been stereotyped as marauding barbarians arriving in their helmeted hordes to pillage their way across Britain. But now a group of academics believe they have uncovered new evidence that the Vikings were more cultured settlers who offered a "good historical model" of immigrant assimilation.The evidence is set to be unveiled at a three-day Cambridge University conference starting today, when more than 20 studies will reveal how the Vikings shared technology, swapped ideas and often lived side-by-side in relative harmony with their Anglo-Saxon and Celtic contemporaries. Some may have come, plundered and left, but those Vikings whodecided to settle rather than return to Scandinavia learnt the language, inter-married, converted to Christianity and even had "praise poetry" written about them by the Brits, according to the experts.The conference, entitled "Between the Islands", draws on new archeological evidence, historical studies and analysis of the language and literature of the period, and shows that between the 9th and 13th centuries, the Vikings became an integral part of the fabric of social and political life that changed Britain and Ireland far more profoundly than previously realised.
The academics hope it will tip the balance still further in the "raiders or traders" question.
Scholars will argue that
they should be seen as an early example of immigrants who were
successfully assimilated into British and Irish culture.Their
so-called "invasion" led, to some extent, to the creation of
trans-national identities, a process that has particular relevance to
Dr Fiona Edmonds, of Cambridge University's department
of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, said: "The latest evidence does not
point to a simple opposition between Vikings and natives.
"Within a relatively short
space of time – and with lasting effect – the various cultures in
Britain and Ireland started to intermingle. Investigating that process
provides us with a historical model of how political groups can be
absorbed into complex societies, contributing much to those societies
in the process. There are important lessons that can be gained from
this about cultural assimilation in the modern era."
Dr Máire Ní Mhaonaigh, who
is co-organising theconference......
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