The First European Colonization of the North Atlantic

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2015. Hambrecht, George. The First European Colonization of the North Atlantic. in eds. Mark Leone and Jocelyn Knauf, "Historical Archaeologies of Capitalism", 203-225.


Many facets of what are commonly considered to be novel and unique characteristics of modern Capitalism have their roots, often in a mature form, in the Medieval Period (Abu-Lughod 1991; Crosby 2004; Hoffmann 2001; Marks 2007). Archaeological work focusing on the Norse North Atlantic from the Early Medieval Period through to the Early Modern Period has been especially effective at revealing certain of these phenomena, specifically those dealing with the commoditization of natural resources and the influence of global markets on colonization. The early medieval colonial expansion of the Norse and the subsequent centuries of interaction with the medieval world system anticipate the central place that international global markets had on the formation of the post-Columbian world. This essay will discuss the North Atlantic Norse colonies, specifically the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland, and Newfoundland. For the purposes of this volume, this discussion is offered as a counter-point to the discussions of the post-Columbian colonial efforts of the Europeans in the Americas. The intention is to use the medieval Scandinavian colonial migration to problematize the larger discussion on the nature of colonies, colonialism, and the emergence of capitalism.