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Book: Comparative Perspectives on Colonisation, Maritime Interaction and Cultural Integration

Chapter: 13. In the Footsteps of the Vikings: Children and Cultural Change

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.24611


This paper explores children’s experiences of migration during the Viking Age in the British Isles, drawing on the evidence from written sources, the funerary record, material culture used by children, and new insights from scientific evidence, principally stable isotope data. There is no doubt that children played an important role during the Viking Age in the processes of migration and settlement, and studies of recent migrations by anthropologists and sociologists offer some potentially useful analogies for our understanding of Viking-Age child migrants, highlighting the capacity of children to embrace the opportunities offered by migration. Children can be shown to act as mediators of cultural interaction and assimilation, and may prove better at adapting to language change and creating new networks of acquaintances than adults. By drawing on the insights to be gleaned from analysis of better-understood migrations we can have the confidence to interrogate our Viking-Age evidence afresh, and in turn ask fundamental questions about the broad social processes that are central to the scholarly literature on migration − including acculturation, ethnogenesis and conversion − all of which are routinely discussed purely with reference to adults. In seeking to render children as agents of past social change we can hope to develop more nuanced narratives of migration.

Chapter Contributors

  • Dawn Hadley ( - dhadley) 'University of Sheffield, UK'