June 9, 2020

Publication, Thomas Heebøll-Holm, "Piratical slave-raiding – the demise of a Viking practice in high medieval Denmark"

Thomas Heebøll-Holm "Piratical slave-raiding – the demise of a Viking practice in high medieval Denmark", Scandinavian Journal of History, 2020. 


This article explores the demise of the piracy of the Vikings. This piracy consisted in part of slave-raiding and slave-trading, and in these operations the modus operandi was often to kill males and take females as slaves. Although the Danes were Christianized in the late tenth century, this practice persisted in the following centuries. Thus, even in the twelfth century when the Danish waged holy war against the pagan Wends on the southeastern Baltic shore, slave-raiding still seems to have been part of the Danish military practice. However, by then, there was increasing ideological and economic pressure to abandon this kind of warfare. The Church frowned upon the raiding and trading of Christians as slaves, and it increasingly condemned this practice. Moreover, the international trade was changing from being focused on the sale of luxury items such as furs, jewellery and slaves to one dominated by trade in bulk goods. Finally, the Franco-German military practice aimed at controlling land rather than people increasingly superseded the classic Scandinavian one of the raiding. In combination, these developments caused the cessation of Danish slave-raiding in the thirteenth century.

Share on