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Transfer to Ireland and Britain

It has been argued that markets were of central importance to the Scandinavian groups on both sides of the Channel and in Ireland in the ninth century.48 Taking those Viking groups active in Ireland and England, we see how the latter’s wintercamps and Hiberno-Scandinavian longphuirt contribute to a picture of market centres characterised by small-scale manufacture and transactions made through the medium of bullion currency.49

As has been argued,50 the seemingly ‘Danish’ (or Vestfold-Kaupang) character of those Viking leaders who ultimately prevailed in the fair-versus-dark foreigner battle for Dublin and became the royal line of Jorvik, speak to what we might understand as a conscious desire to develop markets and market-centric kingdoms like those they knew in southern and Baltic Scandinavia. In this model, as Downham’s, the Dublin fvarr is the same as the Great Army’s.51 Consequently, it seems that his Ui Irnair descendants were continuing an imperative to maintain long-distance market sites and link the Dublin-York kingdom to the wealth of southern Scandinavia and the Baltic.

According to this model, this particular brand of bullion economy, characterised by broad-band arm-rings and dirhams, was transported to Ireland and England in more or less a direct line by related Viking groups. What, then, of

Scotland? Critical to the arguments advanced here is the idea that Baltic-Danish monetary developments also transferred into northern and western Norway through Danish-founded southern Norwegian market sites like Kaupang. Consequently, even those Scandinavian settlers from rural northern Norway were bringing urban market and monetary influences with them to their Scottish lands.

Despite the activities in central Scotland of that part of the (likely largely ‘Danish’) Great Army who headed north after 874 and the 870 siege of Dumbarton Kock that opened up Loch Lomond and the Clyde to Hiberno-Scandinavian Dubliners,52 we rarely consider their potential economic influence. This may well be due to a belief among Scottish historiography, perhaps rooted in the Samson model, that Viking war bands were ‘uneconomic’.5’’ More correctly, it may due to the short-lived nature of their stay in this southern region (with some exceptions). For this reason, we turn to those northern and western areas in which long-term settlement occurred.

The potential for bullion trade wealth generation, which is suggested by the silver corpus of northern and western Scotland, seems to have been based on its nodal positioning for east-west network traffic.’4 Scandinavian Scotland likely benefitted from its strategic position between the two nodes of an Ut Imair market kingdom based on Dublin and York, particularly for those cargoes unsuitable for the use of Roman roads linking Jorvik to the Irish Sea,” and also as a result of its location on the sea route between Kaupang and southern Scandinavia and the Irish Sea.56

At this point, we turn to network models that seek to understand how abstract economic concepts and physical currency were transferred from post-substantivist ‘urban’ markets to rural and remote populations. This helps to explain how urban bullion economies were transferred to ostensibly unpromising environments for market trade, in regions like northern Norway and the coastal fringes and islands that constituted the majority of Scandinavian Scotland.

Factors, such as proximity, later pseudo-historical sources (sagas), and Norse place names, suggest that the majority of Scandinavians in northern and western Scotland originated in northern and western Norway. If we accept this suggestion, any investigation into what monetary' practices they brought with them should look at their homelands. However, as with Scotland, there is no evidence here for established market sites using the bullion (or coined) silver. If so, how might these settlers have encountered the use of bullion as a means of exchange prior to emigration?

Here, Sindbask’s ‘small world’ model is important in what it suggests about connections between southern Scandinavian patrons of market sites like Kaupang in the south of Norway and the rural and sparsely populated north.

Sindbrek argued that, even in the pre- or early Viking-Age eighth century, communities in the far north of Norway were getting glass and copper alloy jewellery from southern, urban markets.57 In this way, the key network or ‘nodal’ markets ‘permeated [even] pre-Viking Scandinavia [...] to its far comers. In terms that are meaningful for the [Viking Age], there was no such thing as rural versus urban [...]. Every part ofNorway maintained long-distance links with the budding urban network, and the opportunities and competition it generated’.58 We can use this to suggest how northern Norwegians, having been introduced to southern Norwegian practice via a small world of people they knew personally, might have brought bullion use and the understanding of markets to Scotland.

This leads us to the ‘Ohthere Model’,59 whereby historical evidence allows us to speculate about a wealthy individual from Arctic Norway and their relationship with markets. The account preserves a coastal journey on the Nordweg between Ohthere’s home (perhaps around Troms) to the markets at Kaupang and Hedeby. As Kruse noted, Ohthere ‘was carrying goods and was thus presumably exchanging, but the source is not explicit that this was “neutral” exchange, even if it was likely to have been so’.60

Viewed with Sindbaek’s ‘small worlds’ theory, this model of rural individuals connecting to markets in which the evidence suggests silver was used as a means of exchange informs one of the key ways how Baltic and southern Scandinavian-style bullion economies spread not just to northern and western Norway, but also from these regions to Scotland. We note that Scotland appears to have been settled from the second half of the ninth century, the period in which bullion use was gaining popularity in Scandinavia.61

The Ohthere Model is but one of multiple avenues for how bullion economics could have reached Scotland. This could have been via Hiberno-Scandinavians (as is suggested for much of the silver in the west),62 as well as by the eastern Danelaw and eastern Scotland. These routes were also likely bidirectional, with marketbased traders from Dublin and York also heading north to the Scottish settlements, perhaps visiting individual farms or, as suggested below, attending temporary beach markets overseen by Ohthere-type magnates and using that most efficient of commodity monies, namely bullion silver, as the means of exchange.

 
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