After conversion to Christianity in the 11th century, three northern kingdoms – Denmark, Norway and Sweden – emerged and what we today call the Nordic Region became a part of Europe.
The part of the world that we now call the Nordic Region first came into contact with the rest of Europe during the Viking era (approx. AD 800–1050), as pagan seafarers from the north ravaged, traded with and settled in many areas of Europe.
Christian Europe responded with intensive missionary work. The Nordic chiefs soon saw the advantages of adopting the new faith, which bolstered their power and offered easier access to the Continent. The missionaries wanted the new territories to be ruled by Christian kings who would help to strengthen the church.
The earliest history of the Region is shrouded in mystery – and only hinted at by the sagas – but we know that by the end of the 11th century, the Scandinavian lands had been divided between the three newly established kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden.
It was their waterways that held the three kingdoms together. Denmark arose at the entrance to the Baltic and incorporated Jutland, Scania and the many islands in that area. Norway means “the north road”, i.e. the waterway from the River Göta and the Oslo Fjord around South Norway and to the north. Sweden's core areas skirted the Baltic Sea coast and the large lakes at the centre of the country.
Outside of Scandinavia (i.e. modern-day Denmark, Norway and Sweden), Iceland, the Faroe Islands and south-west Greenland gradually became part of the Norwegian kingdom after they were colonised by the Vikings. Modern-day Finland was gradually incorporated into the Swedish kingdom in the 12th and 13th centuries.