VIKINGS—RAIDERS OR TRADERS—OR FARMERS. I have posted several times on historical opinions on whether the Vikings were raiders or traders. I called attention here to Tom Shippey’s judgment that the Vikings were raiders—“just unusually aggressive”. Eric Christiansen in the New York Review of Books (September 25) argues that the popular view of Norsemen is shaped by the public’s preference for “a good story, with plenty of action, to an appreciation of farming under difficulties”. He points out their achievements in establishing farming settlements in Iceland and Greenland. He calls the establishment of two colonies of several hundred farms which survived in Greenland from about 1000 to about 1450 “heroic”. Christiansen praises the Viking farmers for their ingenuity in using irrigation to raise temperatures and for their imaginative substitutions to make up for the lack of things such as metal, timber, and grain.

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