Could Viking settlers have established a catholic kingdom in the Caribbean by 1450? What challenges would they face, and be unique to their colonising this region by this time? And if they had, could they have monopolised access and trade to the Americans, in order to grow into a major power?

I am aware that Leif Erikson is credited with being the first European to find and explore the north east tip of the Americas around 1000, which is incidentally around when Iceland decided to convert to Christianity. It seems possible, but I would like an answer from someone familiar with the Vikings and the colonisation of the Americas.

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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure if Vikings would have attempted to control trade to the americas, or attempted to pillage instead. $\endgroup$ – Twelfth Sep 15 '16 at 17:36
  • $\begingroup$ I don't know if vikings' ship could make out that long distance. Also, vikings' rests were found in Greenland $\endgroup$ – Yacomini Sep 16 '16 at 13:15


  • The Viking age is typically defined as 790 - 1050 AD.
  • The Viking Leiv Eriksson built houses in Newfoundland after traversing the coast from Greenland. Going down to the Caribbean is quite a stretch.
  • Europe was decimated by the black death in the 1300s. There was plenty of free land in Europe and no need to emigrate overseas.

  • There was a long-standing colony of norse people in Greenland, which never emigrated to America and died out in the 1400s

  • Around year 1000, emigration was from mainland Europe to Iceland. Iceland was thus able to absorb immigrants, who would not be travelling further.

Whatever forces it takes to drive colonization, they were present in the case of Iceland but simply does not seem to have materialized in the case of Greenland and America. The main reason was probably a lack of "surplus population" being pushed to emigration for the sake of aquiring farmland.

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    $\begingroup$ The Little Ice Age also cause the far flung colonies in Greenland and "Vineland" to fail, and curtailed immigration to these regions. $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Sep 16 '16 at 1:27

Since we're talking about an on a site for fictional worlds, of course it is possible. The question becomes what you have to do to make it happen?

  • When you talk about a Viking kingdom, what exactly do you mean? Would Norway or Iceland around 1450 qualify as Viking states by your definition? Is it necessary to have the majority of the population of Viking descent, or is it enough if the king has at least one Viking ancestor?
  • Does Catholic mean a Christian kingdom that is not Orthodox, or does it mean a king who acknowledges the supremacy of the pope? In the 14th century, which pope?
  • Just how watertight would the monopoly have to be to become a major power?

You could easily decide that Vikings discovered the Caribbean in your setting. Assume that more ships and settlers got to North America. A few of them decided to explore southwards, because the opposite direction is too cold.

It would be more difficult to explain how and why a Caribbean kingdom would become a major power. A tropical climate is not helpful for a large population. Ships which are permanently based in the tropics will decay quickly. And so on.



  1. European dominance of the Americas was largely possible due to waves of disease that decimated the well established native civilizations. "Viking" settlement probably wouldn't have this advantage since their northern nations were already lightly populated (compared to 15/16th century mainland Europe) and probably couldn't sustain a smallpox like disease in order to pass it on.

  2. Too long of a supply chain for the ships. While a longship is a marvelous thing, the transit time from the Caribbean back to Norse countries is long. Early European settlements barely survived as it is, they needed a near constant influx of supplies and men. Large difference between trading and settling.

  3. No interest. There were existing stories of a land to the West but getting there was difficult and what was there? No one knew, so it was hard to shift priorities towards exploration, especially when Norse life was difficult enough as it was.

More likely that a norse colony would die out or be totally assimilated into the native culture, especially on a Caribbean island. Or, by the time they could set up a chain of colonies along the north American seaboard to reach down to the Caribbean, mainland European powers would have realized that a land grab was happening and they would have jumped in earlier than Columbus.

Or, even worse for Europe, is that native populations learn enough tech from Viking explorers that they pose a threat to EUROPE. Way easier to get to Europe from America than the reverse. There is a blog that describes the challenges pre-Columbian sailors had getting around the Atlantic.


Sure, it's possible; the question, really, is why. Vikings would be far out of their element in the Caribbean, and they weren't short on space in their accustomed environment, so it would take a lot of pressure to send them there. Besides, at those distances a Norse colony would be more or less completely cut off from the rest of the Viking civilization, so would have to supply itself. I'd suggest religious persecution as a motivation, but you asked for a Catholic kingdom at a time when Catholicism would have been fine, and in any case they wouldn't need to go so far.

So let's tweak history a little. There's evidence that a volcanic winter occurred about seventy thousand years ago, due to the eruption of a supervolcano. How about we do it again, and use a different one - there's a supervolcano in Italy, called Campi Flegrei. It's a little on the small side, so let's imagine that in this alternate history it was a bit bigger, and erupted in the early 1000's. The resulting cloud of ash would have caused several years of cold temperatures worldwide, especially in Europe, North America, and - most importantly, for our purposes - Scandinavia. Crops would have failed, game animals would have reduced populations. It wouldn't be enough to kill anyone off, but perhaps enough that a few daring seafarers might envision a better place, a region far enough southwest that the effects of the ash cloud would be reduced. They set out from Iceland and keep going south until things warm up, then make landfall, founding a Viking colony in the Caribbean. Four hundred years later, this colony has become a kingdom in its own right.

Mind you, I'm no meteorologist, nor am I a vulcanologist - any or all of this could be nonsense. But it seems plausible to me.


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