The Vikings

The traditional perception of the Vikings as marauders and plunderers of Irish monasteries is incomplete: it concentrates on the early years of Viking activity, ignoring that the Vikings eventually settled peacefully, integrating into Irish society and making a positive contribution as traders and town-dwellers.

Marie Therese Flanagan

The arrival of Viking sea raiders in Irish waters in the late eighth century heralded the first influx of new peoples into Ireland since the major settlement of the Celts had been completed in the last centuries BC. From about the second century BC until the late eighth century AD Ireland had enjoyed freedom from external attack or settlement. This was in marked contrast with the experience of neighbouring Britain or the continent during the same period. Britain, for example, like Ireland had been settled by Celts and at approximately the same time. But Britain, unlike Ireland, was also to experience conquest by the Romans in the first century AD and to be further colonised by Germanic peoples during the fifth and sixth centuries. By contrast, Ireland experienced neither Roman nor Germanic settlement. Rather, it was the Irish who engaged in colonising ventures between the fourth and sixth centuries, attacking and settling parts of Britain, notably in Scotland, Wales and Cornwall. This is an aspect of Irish colonial history which is generally overlooked.

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