For more than a thousand years they have had a reputation for raping, pillaging and engaging in violent conquests.
But new research suggests that this violent image of the Vikings may be a little unfair.
In fact, some academics claim that the Norsemen were ‘model immigrants’ who lived side-by-side in relative harmony with the Anglo-Saxon and Celtic locals.
In 793 the Vikings launched their first brutal raid on England, hacking monks to death and terrifying villagers at a priory in Lindisfarne.
But they soon became an ‘integral part of the fabric of social and political life’, according to academics at Cambridge University.
Dr Fiona Edmonds said: ‘The latest evidence does not point to a simple opposition between ‘Vikings’ and ‘natives’.
‘Within a relatively short space of time–and with lasting effect–the various cultures in Britain and Ireland started to intermingle.’
Researchers say the Vikings should been seen as an early example of immigrants who were successfully assimilated into British and Irish culture.
A combination of new archaeological evidence and analysis of the language, literature and coinage of the period was used to come to this surprising new conclusion.
The findings appear to fly in the face of accepted theories about the Vikings and their barbarous ways.
But researchers are insistent that this is more than just an attempt to manipulate history to fit modern-day political correct attitudes.
Dr Maire Ni Mhaonaigh, who is co-organising the three-day conference in Cambridge on the subject, genuinely believes modern-day Britons today can learn from such positive immigration.
She said: ‘Most people’s image of the Vikings centres on their arrival and disruption but that only continued for a very short period of time.
‘Afterwards they started building settlements and interacting with the locals and became assimilated into their culture and influenced them in many ways.
‘As such they provide a clear example of how a particular group came into a sophisticated established society and the resulting interaction was positive.
‘Both societies profited and modern day people can take a lesson from this that two cultures coming together can learn from each other.’
Dr Edmonds said: ‘Investigating that process provides us with a historical model of how political groups can be absorbed into complex societies, contributing much to those societies in the process,’
‘There are important lessons that can be gained from this about cultural assimilation in the modern era.’
After the initial–inevitably violent–conquest, Vikings became an integral part of social and political life in Britain and Ireland between the 9th and 13th centuries, the research suggests.
It also shows the Vikings, Celts and Anglo-Saxons exchanged a lot of cultural ideas such as story-telling and ship building.
There is even evidence that suggests that Vikings adopted Christianity and intermarried with their English and Irish counterparts.
Recent studies of regional coinage from the period also show that Viking rulers developed economies influenced by cultures they encountered on arrival.