The Vikings: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
Julian D. Richards
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The Viking reputation is one of bloodthirsty seafaring warriors, repeatedly plundering the British Isles and the North Atlantic throughout the early Middle Ages. Yet Vikings were also traders, settlers, and farmers, with a complex artistic and linguistic culture, whose expansion overseas led them to cross the Atlantic for the first time in European history. Highlighting the latest archaeological evidence, Julian Richards reveals the whole Viking world: their history, their culture, and their legacy of overseas expansion for trade, colonization, and plunder. Viking identity is explored through what we have learned about their towns, art, shipbuilding, and religious rituals. Here the Viking story is brought up to the present, from the tales of adventure found in medieval Icelandic sagas, to their exploitation as a symbol of nationalism in the nineteenth century by Wagner, and later by Hitler and the Nazi party. The author also highlights their impact and influence on the history and people of Northern Europe. Vikings, a fascinating new look at a people and culture that have been reinvented throughout history, will take readers closer to discovering who they really were.
reached its maximum extent in the 10th century. A large hall of the new ‘trelleborg’ type was erected, in addition to several other dwellings, and open-ended buildings, possibly wagon sheds, although there was still no trace of agricultural production. In 1977 a 1.8 kg gold neck ring of the 10th century was found by metal detector. This would have been a tremendously precious object, equivalent in value to 500 cattle, and the type of gift that might have been given by a king to a loyal follower;
from his high seat into the sea and followed it until it washed ashore at what was to become the Icelandic capital at Reykjavik. Again the ﬁrst colonists were said to have emigrated from Norway to escape the tyranny of Haraldr Finehair. Similarly, there were a few Irish hermits but when the Norse ﬁrst arrived they soon left. At the end of the settlement period, in 930, a special law code was enacted and an open-air assembly, the Althing, was established at Thingvellir. Thus goes the origin myth
natural vegetation cover of Iceland was destroyed due to woodland clearance and overgrazing, followed by soil erosion. Landscape degradation enhanced by cooling climatic conditions subjected the Viking cultural system to severe stress – in economic, demographic, and social structures. In a society where families had become dispersed because of migration, new systems, such as hreppur – or agricultural cooperatives – had to replace former familial safeguards with a form of social services.
became their own racial forebears and role models, destined to defeat their inferiors in other countries. 123 Reinventing the Vikings Furthermore, the Vikings in England failed to produce a historian; their deeds were known solely through the eyes of the West Saxon chroniclers, and so long as later historians accepted this propaganda as fact, the Vikings were guaranteed short shrift. It was Ælfred, Victorian school children were taught, who uniﬁed the nation, saved the English from the
more unreliable, as physical characteristics bear only an approximation to genes, and environment can be an important factor, although blood groups provide a closer proxy for DNA. 131 Reinventing the Vikings A major genetics survey carried out for the BBC in 2001 took DNA samples from men at a number of sites. In the main, small towns were chosen and the men tested were required to be able to trace their male line back two generations in the same rural area. The aim was to reduce the effects