Vikings: A land without kings

When Vikings colonised Iceland in the 870s, they established a society in which local chieftains, not distant monarchs, held the reins of power. Philip Parker tells their story...

A view of Þingvellir National Park in western Iceland. It was here, in AD 930, that Viking settlers established the first pan-Icelandic assembly – possibly the oldest parliamentary body in the world. (© Dreamstime)

This article was first published in the March 2014 issue of BBC History Magazine

About 50 years after their raids first spread terror along the coastlines of north-western Europe, the Vikings struck westward. This time some of them sailed not in search of treasure or slaves but as land-hungry warriors seeking safe havens in which to found colonies away from increasingly powerful Scandinavian kings.

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