Page last updated at 12:44 GMT, Sunday, 15 March 2009

Vikings 'welcomed' as immigrants

Vikings successfully blended into British and Irish culture long before they were labelled as barbaric raiders, academics have told a conference.

Researchers unveiled two dozen studies this weekend at Cambridge University revealing how Vikings shared technology and ideas with Anglo-Saxons and Celts.

They argue Vikings should be seen as an early example of immigrants being successfully assimilated.

New evidence shows this assimilation occurred over a very short period.

There are important lessons that can be gained from this about cultural assimilation in the modern era
Dr Fiona Edmonds

"The latest evidence does not point to a simple opposition between Vikings and natives," said Dr Fiona Edmonds, from the University of Cambridge's Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic.

"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."

Conference speakers aimed to illustrate how between the 9th and 13th centuries, the Vikings became an integral part of social and political life which changed Britain and Ireland.

Evidence from across Britain

Their ideas are based on new archaeological evidence, historical studies, and analysis of the language, literature and coinage of the period.

Scandinavian settlement in Ireland was much more varied than was once thought.

Interaction between Viking incomers and Celts can be detected in many towns and rural camps.

Scandinavian settlement in North-West England including archaeological remains point to early Viking settlements on the Cumbrian coast.

Personal names in the Domesday Book suggest settlements established in Yorkshire retained their Gaelic-Scandinavian identity until the Norman Conquest.

Regional coinage from the period show that Viking rulers developed economies influenced by cultures they encountered on arrival.

In East Anglia there had been a well-regulated coin economy which they adopted but in other areas with limited coin circulation they introduced a bullion economy.

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