Leif Eriksson

The First European to Reach North America

Who was Leif Eriksson?

Early Life

Leif Eriksson was a Norse explorer regarded as the first European man to ever set foot in North America, a place in Canada that he called Vinland (modern day Nova Scotia). Little is known about Leif Eriksson's early life. A Norse explorer born shortly before 1000 A.D., exploration was apparently in his family's blood. He was the second of three sons of Erik the Red, who was the founder of the first European settlement on what is modern day Greenland. Eriksson's story has been told in several accounts, but the reliability of them is not easy to determine.

The Discovery

Leif Eriksson's journey began with an expedition to Norway. Eriksson spoke with King Olaf about Christianity and was to return to Greenland and spread this belief with his fellow Norse. What happened on his return is up to debate- some say Eriksson attempted to sail back to Greenland and was thrown off course, discovering Vinland, though the more likely circumstance is that he sought out Vinland based on stories of an Icelandic merchant who'd sailed off course but never actually explored the new land. Eriksson and his crew stepped onto North American soil and stayed through the winter, benefiting from the milder weather, timber, and multitude of grapes that earned the land its name. After the winter was over, Eriksson and his crew returned to Greenland and spread the belief of Christianity, as well as brought a large amount of grapes and timber back to their home.

The Evaluation

Importance of the Discovery

Though Eriksson’s discovery was indisputably more important in his days than it is now, at the time it provided his village with valuable resources and a colony in the new world. However, Eriksson himself never returned to Vinland. This discovery was never officially recounted to the rest of the world. Instead, it was only recorded in the Nordic songs and stories, written down but the discovery kept amongst their own people. Though Eriksson himself never returned to Vinland, his discovery led to the colonization of Canada by other Vikings, contributing the first European colony on North America. Since he had just returned from Norway, Christianity was also presented to the new land. Perhaps one of the more important of impacts is that while in Vinland, Eriksson had relations with a woman and birthed a son. The son later found Eriksson, and this event led to the continuation of the Viking's bloodline.

Not Well Known

Despite the importance of his discovery, many people haven't heard of Leif Eriksson.

Mistake or Success?

The discovery of Vinland was a huge success- Eriksson successfully found the location he intended to based on the travel records of an Icelandic trader. Upon arrival, he sets up a temporary settlement to collect resources, bringing these back to his homeland and paving the way for further expedition of the land by the Norse.

Overall Grade (Standard Scale)

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Leif Eriksson heard a tale about a distant land and sought it out. He brought back important materials and allowed for the colonization of the land, as well as living up to his heritage as a successful explorer. However, his findings were never shared with the rest of the world and he never officially claimed and founded Norse land over in North America, as well as never returning himself. He also suffered the loss of a few members of his expedition (including his brother), which docks him down from a perfect score.

Suggestions for the Future

Leif Eriksson is not very well known, but this doesn't take away from the importance of his journey as he bested Columbus by almost 5 centuries. Leif Eriksson should be mentioned in modern text books more often all across the world (he already has a national holiday but nobody really knows what it is he's famous for). More mention of him and his discovery of Vinland, as well as converting the population of Greenland to Christianity, should prove his importance in history in the minds of people all around the world.

Works Cited

Bio.com. A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2015.

"Leif Eriksson." History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 12 Mar. 2015.

"The Mariners' Museum | EXPLORATION through the AGES." The Mariners' Museum | EXPLORATION through the AGES. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2015.

"The Viking Explorer Who Beat Columbus to America." History.com. A&E Television Networks, 08 Oct. 2013. Web. 11 Mar. 2015.