Denmark's earliest kings were also pirates A pirate ship anchored up in the harbor of Copenhagen. (Bente Jonsson/Flickr/Peter Carlsson/Etsa/Corbis)
Denmark's earliest kings were also pirates

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Sitting in thrones. Brokering alliances. Engaging in pomp and circumstance. Conducting pirate raids? One of these things may not seem like the others. But all four were things that would have seemed familiar to Denmark’s earliest kings. Pirates actually founded Denmark. That's according to ScienceNordic’s Stine Rendrup Johansen.

Johansen writes that piracy were the basis of the earliest Danish kings’ power. So was looting. The years between 800 and 1400 were the time of the Vikings. Thomas Heebøll-Holm is a medieval historian. He tells Johansen that pirate raids weren’t just a method of robbing. They were also a means of “conventional warfare or revenge.” They were done by early Danish leaders.

“Essentially, Viking raids between 800 and 1000 CE funded the building of a Danish royal power.” That's what Heebøll-Holm told Johansen. 

Viking pirates used expeditions to struggle for power. They also used pirate-approved methods. They united their own warriors. They funded their ongoing activity. Heebøll-Holm hopes to gain a better understanding of just how piracy affected things. These include laws and norms around the monarchy.

Still skeptical about the power of the pirate in days of yore? Here’s a description of the impact of Viking pirate raids. Stefan Eklöf Amirell and Leos Müller write that Viking pirates acted “as catalysts for political change and dislocation across Europe.” 

In ninth-century England “every kingdom but one was destroyed. Up to half the country was occupied by Viking forces.” 

The Kingdom of Frankia had it even worse. Fourteen percent of the entire economy surrendered to Vikings. “Whole regions are recorded as ‘laid waste’.” “And thousands were killed and enslaved.”

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Why do you think that Denmark's earliest kings chose piracy as a means to gain power?
Write your answers in the comments section below

  • ZhiFeiL-eri1
    8/09/2018 - 05:23 a.m.

    I think that Denmark's earliest kings chose piracy to gain powers because they were a means of “conventional warfare or revenge.” They were done by early Danish leaders.

  • Phoenix R-rud
    9/06/2018 - 11:28 a.m.

    In the text it states that they might have wanted to use them for "conventional warfare or revenge." Also, pirates back then had a lot of power.

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