Page:Source Problems in English History.djvu/30

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Source Problems in English History

ward strangely inactive. Now in the ninth century the flood which had long held back broke with the greater fury. Enough time had passed for the earlier invaders to assimilate many good things which they found in the southern civilization and to make their contribution of virile and clean blood. They were already Christian in more than name. Such loss of classic civilization as was inevitable had been suffered. But all had not been lost; and now the blackest centuries of the dark ages, the sixth and seventh, lay behind. Europe was getting well started upon the slow but hopeful journey toward the light of modern times. Was this new inundation to bring on a second and more hopeless dark age?

Beyond the fundamental cause of a rapidly increasing population in lands not fitted to sustain it, several causes more immediate to the ninth century help to account for the viking raids. The first has to do with the northern extensions of Charlemagne’s empire, especially his generation-long struggle with Saxony, ending finally in complete conquest. This struggle not seldom involved directly or indirectly the people of Denmark and even of Scandinavia, who were led to fear advancing Christendom as their greatest foe. When they went forth to conquer they were eager to strike at Christian states wherever found, and they did not distinguish nicely between those inside and outside the Frankish empire. Of course the love of plunder and adventure played a commanding part once the wealth of the southern lands and the weakness of their governments were known. At first there were desultory raids directed against the places where the resistance was least, and with little or no concerted action among the petty bands under their viking leaders. As the years passed and the invaders multiplied and became more familiar with the invaded regions, the lure of the