The Viking Age was a period of intense change in Europe. At the beginning of that time, Europe was a disorganized place of small, fractured kingdoms and weak rulers. Charlemagne was the exception here. But when he died, even his empire proved unstable and vulnerable.
When the Viking Age ended (mid-11th century), Europe was a much different land. Kingdoms were consolidating. Rulers were becoming more powerful, institutions were becoming more organized, and they were no longer soft targets. Warfare was changing, with the shield wall gradually becoming far less important than mounted knights and archers. Scandinavia changed from a land of petty warlords to strong kingdoms in the style of the rest of Europe. To the east, the hybrid Viking culture of the Rus established dominion over the trade routes to Byzantium and the Caliphates. To the south, the hybrid Viking culture of the Normans was proving that they were the ones to watch in the High Middle Ages.
Vikings had been catalysts to many of these changes. Their activities brought wealth and power to their leaders back home, who fought each other to become real kings. They founded new empires and alliances as the Normans and Rus. They helped form England, first through their belligerence and then their participation.
So what happened to the Vikings?
Everywhere Vikings settled, they added to the sociopolitical picture and blended with other populations. Perhaps, it is ironic that these very changes they sparked eventually made the Viking lifestyle impractical and obsolete. Europe was moving in another direction, and the Vikings changed with it.
Click here to learn about the Battle of Stamford Bridge, which signified the final ending of the Viking Age.
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