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What If the Viking Colony in America Had Been Successful?

Updated on August 18, 2019
Grifts profile image

Devin enjoys history, gardening, cooking, and blacksmithing in his spare time.

Who really discovered America? When was America discovered?

Christopher Colombus was not the first European to discover America. The Vikings hold that distinction, with a colony in Newfoundland just after the year 1000 AD. They named the colony "L'anse aux Meadows" and the land itself "Vinland."

Colombus would not set sail until nearly 500 years later. Colombus was, of course, trying to find another route to China, and was not trying to find a new land mass at all.

The Vikings were not welcomed. The Native Americans, referred to as Skraelings by the vikings, and were hostile. The vikings were familiar with combat, having sacked much of Western Europe.

It is not clear why the American colonies failed in the new world.

Photo by: Ardfern

What if the Viking colony in America hadn't failed?

While Europe was in the middle of the Dark Ages, I believe the vikings would be expanding across America. Being seafarers, I believe they would have first expanded along the Eastern seaboard of the now United States and across the north of Canada. The many waterways would provide routes of travel further inland.

The Vikings, while very militaristic and expansionist, were not a barbaric people.

Their society was very structured, and had writing (runic script). They had laws and paid taxes.

What would have happened differently?

Had the Viking colonies flourished, the spread of European diseases would have happened much quicker in North America, decimating the native population, killing nearly 80% of them over the next 100 to 150 years, and leaving vast amounts of land free for the taking.

Whereas the arriving Europeans worked with the Native Americans at first, the Vikings would require much less help to survive the cold winters, having already experienced them every year in their homeland. The Vikings, with their metal weapons and armor, would decimate the natives.

Photo: "Hanging On" by Martin Cathrae

The Scandinavians expand - Given 500 years of growth, how far would they have expanded?

As you can see in the map above, the Scandinavians made it all the way to the new world over 4 centuries. They were fought by the Europeans as they expanded. In America, with disease and technology on their side, I believe they would have expanded even faster.

Colombus probably would have landed just as he did now, in present day Cuba. Much would have developed the same, the Americas being very remote to bolster Scandinavia proper. Still, for 500 years, Scandinavia would have been an even stronger power than it was.

The Vikings would be spreading across Canada and much of what we call New England. When John Cabot landed in Newfoundland, he and his crew would have already been sighted by the Vikings. Being European, and non-viking, the pilgrims would have been turned into thralls (sort of like a slave, but not quite as bad) or killed.

How much of Norse America would be populated?

We are in a unique position to answer this question. The first permanent settlement, Jamestown, was founded in 1607. About 400 years ago. Since then, America has grown from sea to shining sea. We have huge cities and have a population of over 300 million people.

Pretend the first permanent settlement was in 1000 AD, by the Vikings. Fast forward 500 years, the Vikings have taken over most or all of North America (just like we Americans did).

If anything, the Vikings would be more entrenched and populated than we are now, as they would have had free reign without European wars over territory to slow them down.

The British, French, Spanish, and Portuguese arrive to find a continent already inhabited.

What would be different today?

For one, we would all be speaking Norse, but more importantly...

Women. Women were considered property to the Vikings.

This sounds really bad, until you consider what being a woman meant in Europe at the time. Women weren't really protected at all in the rest of Europe, and lacked many basic human rights we take for granted today.

Women were protected by law in Scandinavia, and punishments for harming a woman escalated up to outlawry (essentially banishment), which usually ended in a quick death.

Women were allowed to hold and inherit property. Women could request a divorce AND could get her dowry returned if the divorce was approved.

Equal gender rights under law might have happened 500 years sooner!

I'm mostly Scandinavian (about 62.5%) plus 25% Scottish and 12.5% German, so I have a lot of cultural history to cover.

What history does your culture or family have?

Bra Dag! ( "Good day" in Swedish) - Where are you from? What part of your culture's history is interesting?

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    • Grifts profile imageAUTHOR

      Devin Gustus 

      7 years ago

      @Joebeducci: I've always wanted to learn more about Russian history.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I mostly have Dutch blood (50%) and furthermore I'm Polish, Russian, American.. - so some cultural history too. Very interesting topic!



    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I have some British, Irish, Scotch, Dutch, and Polish in me - born in Canada, so I just say I'm Canadian.

    • Grifts profile imageAUTHOR

      Devin Gustus 

      7 years ago

      @shellys-space: Me too! The end of last season I found to be a little lacking, but mainly because I really enjoy the fighting, and wanted a little of it near the end of the season.

    • shellys-space profile image

      Shelly Sellers 

      7 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      I'm hooked on the new Vikings television show and waiting for it to come back on!

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      P.S. Thoroughly enjoyed this piece, and so glad to see it here on Squidoo.

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      I'm a mut, but I share much of your heritage, and some others thrown in. My Scotch-Irish ancestry has always intrigued me.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I'm English, Scottish, French and Native American. My European families have been in N. America since the 1600's. They are all interesting. My favorite changes with each new bit of genealogy I discover. I enjoyed this lens. I've got to learn more about the Vikings.

    • MelanieKaren profile image

      Melanie Wilcox 

      7 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      I loathed history classes in highschool and at college. It was my least-liked subject. If articles or lectures like this if you will were given, I would have actually liked it a whole lot more.

    • Meganhere profile image


      7 years ago

      My ancestry is English, Scottish, Cornish and Welsh, with a Jewish Egyptian and an American Quaker also in the mix.

      Great lens.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I have just finished watching a British series called The Vikings which included a short invasion of England. Very cool. I look forward to the next series.

    • RHKnight profile image


      7 years ago

      Great topic, I love history as well. "What ifs..." are fun to think about. I am a blend of at least 3 kinds of Celtic, Anglo-Saxon, and German all these covered on all my family tree's roots and branches leading up to me. I love to learn about where we come from and how things have come to be. It gives a lot of understanding to WHY things are the way they are now as well. Kudos for mentioning women, different cultures do have such diverse traditions when it comes to how they view their mothers, daughters, wives etc. I will have to pick up a few more of your lenses, they appear to be just my kind of reading.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Fascinating lens! I would suggest that as Vikings raided by rowing up rivers they would likely expand along the rivers as well. Also, as you quite rightly stated, they were nowhere near as barbaric as portrayed in some films and books. As well as raiding they also traded with people they had respect for. Also they traded in slaves, so some of the surviving Native American tribes might have been kept as slaves (as they did the Brits when they arrived in the UK). If a small portion of the native population survived the European diseases, its possible there might still be large areas of land still inhabited by and ruled separately by Native Americans..? Its possible. This lens has really got me thinking! :) Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Interesting books.

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 

      7 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      One of the best vacations I ever had was to Iceland. It was like going to Utopia in the middle of nowhere. Amazing land of contrasts.

    • Grifts profile imageAUTHOR

      Devin Gustus 

      7 years ago

      @aesta1: I wonder if maybe some of them were from the original settlement, or are they known to have moved to Canada more recently?

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I find this lens fascinating.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      There are many Scandinavians in our area in Canada. I find this lens fascinating.

    • Grifts profile imageAUTHOR

      Devin Gustus 

      7 years ago

      @Rhonda Lytle: I found a couple reports that the Chinese were here first too, though not by 500 years, but definitely before Columbus was.

      I've found a few places like that too!

    • Grifts profile imageAUTHOR

      Devin Gustus 

      7 years ago

      @girlfriendfactory: According to my research, Colombus' stops were San Salvador, a few islands in the Bahamas, Cuba, and then Hispaniola. He was trying to find the emperor of China. He was a bit off.

      Being able to trace your heritage back that far is really amazing! We have a gunslinger and gambler in our heritage, by the name of Turkey Creek Jack Johnson. He apparently knew "Wild" Bill Hickok. At the time, Turkey Creek was considered the black sheep and an embarrassment to the family, but now he is interesting to talk about.

    • girlfriendfactory profile image


      7 years ago

      My family has been in America forever it seems (like the 1600s or there bouts) coming from English, Scottish, and Swiss background. On a side note, I don't recall Columbus discovering Cuba...if memory serves he discovered the Bahamas, Haiti/Dominican Republic and then ventured into South America but I don't recall Cuba. I do remember that he never once set foot in North America and it bugs me every Columbus day. I often wonder why the Norse never went further into the Americas than they did. Surely an explanation exists for this. I find Scandinavian cultures to be quite advanced, even today, and wouldn't have minded at all!

    • Rhonda Lytle profile image

      Rhonda Lytle 

      7 years ago from Deep in the heart of Dixie

      What an interesting concept to consider. I wish the history books would update to include more of those before Columbus, who really just got lost anyway. Following that logic I could say I discovered a whole lot of places I wound up at looking for directions to where I was supposed to be!


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