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Vikings and democracy

When most people think about democracy, they tend to go straight to ancient Greece. However, what many people are not aware of is the fact that fans of modern democracy can actually thank Vikings for its creation.
Vikingship Museum in Oslo - Go Viking with Fjord Tours , Oslo, Norway
When looking back at Norwegian history, you can see the start of what would later develop into what we now know as modern democracy. Although it had a very different name, the Norse Thing system shared a lot of similarities with many democratic systems that we see today.

What Was the Thing?

Despite their image of being barbaric savages that cared only about conquering civilizations, Vikings were so much more than that. A good example of this is the fact that most people don’t even know exactly what a Viking is. Most people believe that the term Viking was used to describe all the people living in what is now Norway.
However, Vikings were only a small group of these Norse people and they were only actually classified as Vikings when conducting the aforementioned Viking activities and conquering. Otherwise, they were much more civilized societies made up of farmers and traders and even had their own political system.
This political system was known as the Thing and was an early version of what later became democracy. The Thing was conducted at a local level, with each community having its own system. The Thing was designed to be a system where individual issues would be brought forth in the community and addressed in an inclusive setting so that everyone could voice their opinion on the matter.

How the Thing Worked

Unlike similar Greek systems, the Thing actually allows certain females to participate in the system as well and conducted business on a much smaller scale so that everyone had a chance to be heard. Each meeting would involve a specific person who operated as a law speaker and was in charge of keeping mental track of all previous legal precedents set by previous Things. There would also be a local chieftain who was responsible for helping make the final decision.
A dispute would then be brought forth and be heard in front of the entire community of free men. They would then get the chance to voice their opinion on the matter and unofficially cast their vote as to who they thought should be held liable for the trouble that had been caused.
The final ruling would then be delivered by the chieftain and law speaker, who were often heavily influenced by wealthy or powerful families. If something needed to go higher up on the food chain, then it could be brought up in a more prestigious Thing that often covered multiple tribes. This system of giving everyone the chance to vote themselves was a great example of direct democracy and spawned further developments of the democratic system.
When the Vikings weren't busy being "democratic" they did "go Viking", meaning traveling for purposes of trade and pillage. We'd like you to invite you to go Viking in Norway this winter (without the pillaging part). You can see our special winter adventures here.

Get active like the Vikings


Welcome to a captivating exploration of the legendary Vikings in Norway!
Wiking Museum - Oslo, Norway

The history of Norwegian Vikings

Though the Vikings lived long ago, their strong legacy lives on and there’s no shortage of interest in their history and traditions. There are plenty of ways for interested travellers to experience Viking life and traditions in modern Norway. For history buffs and families with kids, a trip to Norway is a fantastic way to explore Viking history – all over the country, you’ll find museums, tours, Viking villages and more just waiting to be discovered.

Lofotr Vikingmuseum, Lofoten - Norway

Viking villages in Norway

It’s no secret that there’s a strong Viking history in Norway. Even though the Viking era came to an end during the 11th century, the legacy of Vikings lives on. For those interested in learning more about Viking history, culture and tradition, there are several attractions ranging from museums and historical sites to Viking villages that bring history to life and give you a sense of stepping back in time to the Viking Age.

Viking  - Norway

Viking Travels

Many tourists who travel to Norway are eager to learn more about the history of the Vikings. And, we can’t blame them. The Vikings were fascinating, complex people. Although they are primarily known as fierce warriors, they also engaged in trade and transport across much of Europe and built incredibly advanced ships that fascinate historians to this day. Here is some of what we know about how and where the Vikings traveled during the late 8th to the 11th century.

Viking  - Norway

Medieval Viking feasts

A feast is a huge celebratory dinner with everything served in abundance. The Vikings were famed for their glutinous indulgence of food and habit of eagerly drinking beer or mead wine with every meal.