The age of the Vikings

Anders Winroth

Book - 2014

The Vikings maintain their grip on our imagination, but their image is too often distorted by medieval and modern myth. It is true that they pillaged, looted, and enslaved. But they also settled peacefully and developed a vast trading network. Drawing on a wealth of written, visual, and archaeological evidence, Winroth sheds new light on the complex society and culture of these legendary seafarers.

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Subjects
Published
Princeton : Princeton University Press [2014]
©2014
Language
English
Physical Description
304 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color), maps ; 25 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages 275-288) and index.
ISBN
9780691149851
0691149852
Main Author
Anders Winroth (author)
  • Introduction: The fury of the Northmen
  • Violence in a violent time
  • Röriks at home and away: Viking-age emigration
  • Ships, boats, and ferries to the afterworld
  • Coins, silk, and herring: Viking-age trade in Northern Europe
  • From chieftains to kings
  • At home on the farm
  • Religions of the north
  • Arts and letters
  • Epilogue: The end of the Viking age.
Review by Booklist Reviews

The world of the Vikings is still a bit mysterious. Norse chieftains and their skalds (poets) rarely kept written records of their voyages, and Viking rune-stone writers were deliberately misleading. Modern scholars have to study archaeological evidence and foreign accounts (sometimes unreliable) to piece together histories of the people who eventually formed Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. Because field archaeology continues to make discoveries, new histories such as this one are needed for students and general readers. Winroth focuses on the eighth through eleventh centuries, a period in which the Vikings transformed themselves from feared coastal raiders to full participants in the Christian civilization of Western Europe. After his introduction, which dramatizes the festivities of a celebratory dinner at which a chieftain distributes booty, the author explains Viking warfare, shipbuilding, travel, trade, monarchies, agriculture, religions, arts, and literature. Thanks to its good organization and index (unseen), this history will also help students with assignments. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Choice Reviews

Winroth (Yale) has penned a fast-paced, slender volume on the Viking Age designed for general readers.  His purpose is twofold: to dispel long-held myths about the Vikings (such as their sporting horned helmets) and to convey a faithful picture of life in Viking Age Scandinavia.  In pursuit of the first goal, the author assumes an overly skeptical view about what the literary sources report: European chronicles by churchmen, skaldic poetry, and Norse sagas (chapters 1–2 and 8).  Winroth dismisses most of what Snorri Sturluson reports about the gods in the Prose Edda as Christianizing rationalization.  As a result, readers are left to wonder about what motivated and ended the Viking Age and its significance to European history.  The author is at his best in offering a series of vignettes on social history (chapters 3–7), based on his mastery of archaeology.  With a style that is vivid, engaging, and brilliant in detail, Winroth skillfully summarizes an impressive body of scholarship not available to most readers.  He re-creates the drudgery of farm work to the far-ranging trade in exotic goods, evoking daily life in Viking Age Scandinavia. Summing Up: Highly recommended. General, public, and undergraduate libraries. --K. W. Harl, Tulane University Kenneth W. Harl Tulane University http://dx.doi.org/10.5860/CHOICE.187809 Copyright 2014 American Library Association.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

A major reassessment of the vikings and their legacyThe Vikings maintain their grip on our imagination, but their image is too often distorted by myth. It is true that they pillaged, looted, and enslaved. But they also settled peacefully and traveled far from their homelands in swift and sturdy ships to explore. The Age of the Vikings tells the full story of this exciting period in history. Drawing on a wealth of written, visual, and archaeological evidence, Anders Winroth captures the innovation and pure daring of the Vikings without glossing over their destructive heritage. He not only explains the Viking attacks, but also looks at Viking endeavors in commerce, politics, discovery, and colonization, and reveals how Viking arts, literature, and religious thought evolved in ways unequaled in the rest of Europe. The Age of the Vikings sheds new light on the complex society, culture, and legacy of these legendary seafarers.