Of monarchs and hydrarchs: a conceptual development model for viking activity across the Frankish realm (c. 750-940 CE)
Cooijmans, Christian Albertus
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Despite decades of scholarly scrutiny, the politico-economic exploits of vikings in and around the Frankish realm (c. 750-940 CE) remain – to a considerable extent – obscured by the constraints of a fragmentary and biased corpus of (near-)contemporary evidence, conveying the impression that these movements were capricious, haphazard, and gratuitous in character. For this reason, rather than selectively assessing individual instances of regional Franco-Scandinavian interaction, the present study approaches the available interdisciplinary data on a cumulative and conceptual level, and combines this with the innovative use of GIS to detect and define overall spatiotemporal patterns of viking activity. Set against a backdrop of continuous commerce and knowledge exchange, this overarching survey demonstrates the existence of a relatively uniform, sequential framework of wealth extraction, encampment, and political engagement, within which Scandinavian fleets operated as adaptable, ambulant polities – or ‘hydrarchies’. By delineating and visualising this framework, a four-phased conceptual development model of hydrarchic conduct and consequence is established, whose validity is substantiated by its application to three distinct regional case studies: the lower Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt Basin, the Seine Basin, and the Loire Basin. As well as facilitating the deductive analysis of viking activity for which primary evidence has thus far been ambiguous or altogether absent, the parameters of this abstract model affirm that Scandinavian movements across Francia were the result of prudent and expedient decision-making processes, contingent on exchanged intelligence, cumulative experience, and the ongoing individual and collective need for socioeconomic subsistence and enrichment.