Vikings had several kinds of ships according to what they would be used for and what kind of water they would have to sail, but the basic pattern was the same for them all. There were two main types: warships and transport ships.

The bow and the poop were alike, so, in case it was neccesary to go backwards, they only had to row the other way. The keel was the most important part and to make it, they had to choose an oak with the adequate size, because it had to be all in one piece; it was built so it just needed one metre of water to sail and this way they could enter places no-one else could and disembark at any beach. The helm was in the right side of the poop, held by a leather strip.

The great flexibility and strength of the thin planks in viking ships had its origin in the way wood was cut: always with axe and never with saw, following the radial lines in the tree, getting extremely thin planks one over another and riveted with iron nails. This way, ships were light and easy to work, and vikings had the possibility of lifting them and transporting them along the ground; they actually did that when they sailed the Russian rivers up.

Swedish vikings, the ones from Gotland above all, had established Eastern trading routes even before the beginning of the Viking Era, getting to Constantinople, Jerusalem and Bagdad (many 9th century Gotland runestones remember the dead travellers that reached those places); to do so, they sailed up Russian rivers and even dragged their ships along the ground when it was necessary, for instance, when there were rapids or when the river simply ended and they had to find another.

Afterwards, they dominated those lands without difficulties, as Norwegian and Danish vikings preferred going the other way: Norwegians navigated in high sea, getting to Faroer Islands, Shetland Islands, Orkney Islands, Ireland and later to Iceland and from there to Greenland; Danish settled in French land (Normandy) and England (Danelang).

Nearly all the peoples and territories near the vikings were divided and had continuous internal fights: post-celtics, anglo-saxons, slavs and the several kingdoms the Carolingian Empire fragmented into. The lack of stability made it easy for the vikings to make pillage expeditions and to colonise the lands. The migration rush encouraged many nordic colonists to create settlements both in conquered lands and uninhabitated islands.

The pillage of Lindisfarne monastery, in the eastern coast of the English region of Northumbria, the 8th of June, 793, is officially the beginning of the viking era. The phrase "a furare normannorum libera nos, Domine" (from the rage of the northern men, keep us, our Lord) was present in the Christianity. Chronicles wrote by the terrified monks of Lindisfarne and many other monasteries were the cause to the popular belief of vikings being bloodthirsty murderers, ready to steal riches and grow wealth at any price, belief that was taken for sure for many centuries, while hiding other characteristics that have recently placed them in History as great artists, sailors, traders and founders of cities and states.

While we have an exact date for the beginning of the Viking Era (although it doesn't mean there were no vikings or pillages before), it's not easy to establish an ending date, but it has been usually set around 1100, when the norwegian Harald, the last viking pretender for the English throne was defeated in Stamfordbridge


The modern world exists in a state of cultural, political, and economic globalization. During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries two nations, Portugal and Spain, pioneered the European discovery of sea routes that were the first channels of interaction between all of the world's continents, thus beginning the process of globalization in which we all live today. This tutorial introduces the student to these two pioneering nations, their motivations, their actions, and the inevitable consequences of their colonisation. This tutorial also examines the geographical, technological, economic, political, and cultural patterns of that era.

Prior to 1492 and Christopher Columbus' voyage to the Americas, Spain's only possession of any consequence outside Europe were the Canary Islands. By the mid sixteenth century, however, Spain would control much of the Caribbean, large portions of the Americas and parts of Africa. This rapid acquisition of overseas possessions was accompanied and aided by the establishment and consolidation of hegemony in Europe through a series of political marriages. Instead of waging battles to spread its power and influence, the prolific Habsburgs preferred to use the bonds of marriage to link their household to others. This ensured that the number of threats to Habsburg possessions in Europe would remain at a minimum and would free Spanish resources to conquer overseas territory. Spain politically, socially, and economically dominated her large empire and, unlike the Portuguese, who were limited to coastal regions and tenuously held outposts, the Spaniards were able to penetrate inland and establish much more permanent settlements.

Upon Prince Henry's death in 1460, the mantle of sponsoring exploration came to rest on a new monarch, King John II. King John II was not satisfied with the revenues he was receiving from trading voyages and he was determined to establish a Christian Empire in West Africa. In 1481 he charged Diogo d'Azambuja with forming the first permanent settlement in Africa. To mark the philosophical change in Portugal's voyages from trade missions to settlement, a series of granite pillars were commissioned for subsequent voyages. On each pillar could be found the royal arms of King John II as well as a Christian cross. When explorers reached a previously uncharted region, they were to place the pillar ashore to claim the land in the name of Christendom and Portugal. By 1487, Portuguese explorers had placed granite pillars as far south as Cape Cross.

Prince Henry the Navigator was the fifth child and fourth son of King John I (Jo?o I) and Queen Phillippa. Henry was somewhat of a paradox: a dreamer, a scholar, and a monk who nevertheless possessed the instincts of a businessman. Essentially, Prince Henry was a religious man, committed to breaking the hold of heathens and securing the triumph of Christianity in Africa.

The crusading legacy of Portugal exerted tremendous influence during Prince Henry's time. The expulsion of Islamic North Africans from the Algarve was still a part of the living memory of most Portuguese, and the four great military orders, St. John, Santiago, Aviz, and Christ, still occupied their castles throughout the Portuguese realm. The importance of these military orders cannot be understated, for Prince Henry's own connections to the Order of Christ would play a significant role during the early years of Portuguese expansion.

The first major American civilization to fall to the Spanish was that of the Aztecs. The Aztec Empire was relatively new - it dated from approximately the fourteenth century - but enjoyed a successful history of vigorous expansion. The empire was still growing when the Spaniards appeared at the southern boundary of the Valley of Mexico. The Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, was a splendid complex of cities, lakes, and canals that served as the center of Mesoamerican civilization.

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