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. They traveled far from their homelands in swift and sturdy ships, not only to raid, but also to explore. Despite their fearsome reputation, the Vikings didn’t wear horned helmets, and even the infamous berserkers were far from invincible.
By dismantling the myths, The Age of the Vikings allows the full story of this period in medieval history to be told. By exploring every major facet of this exciting age, 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. He shows how the Vikings seized on the boundless opportunities made possible by the invention of the longship, using it to venture to Europe for plunder, to open new trade routes, and to settle in lands as distant as Russia, Greenland, and the Byzantine Empire. Challenging the image of the Vikings that comes so easily to mind, Winroth argues that Viking chieftains were no more violent than men like Charlemagne, who committed atrocities on a far greater scale than the northern raiders.
Drawing on a wealth of written, visual, and archaeological evidence, The Age of the Vikings sheds new light on the complex society and culture of these legendary seafarers.
Anders Winroth is the Forst Family Professor of History at Yale University. He is the author of The Conversion of Scandinavia: Vikings, Merchants, and Missionaries in the Remaking of Northern Europe and The Making of Gratian’s Decretum.
"[Winroth] has an impressive knowledge of the sources, the archaeology, and the modern historical literature. . . . Winroth really knows what he is writing about, and has done the research. . . . I recommend the work to anyone with little knowledge of the subject and a wish to learn more."--Eric Christiansen, New York Review of Books
"Mr. Winroth's account is superior to all its most recent competitors. He avoids what has become the traditional chronological narrative, centering his chapters instead on themes: violence first, regrettably; but then emigration, trade, state-formation and eventually, with some relief, life 'home on the farm.' He also has the happy knack of seizing on a fascinating detail to open each chapter."--Tom Shippey, Wall Street Journal
"[I]nsightful, informative . . . delightful chapters that flesh out our understanding of the Norsemen's world in a way that no bare narrative could. . . . The Age of the Vikings is a wonderfully compact and fascinating companion to many facets of the Viking world. . . . This book should prove a fascinating and rewarding read for those seeking to deepen their understanding of the Viking world."--Philip Parker, Literary Review
"[T]his book is obviously where to start for anyone fed up with MGM's 'Vikings' and even remotely interested in the real story behind."--Karen Schousboe, Medieval Histories
"If a person wants to approach the Viking Period for the first time or get a refresher on where scholarship is standing right now, then I am happy to recommend this fine book."--Martin Rundkvist, Aardvarcha
"There was more to this seafaring civilization."--Michael Kane, New York Post
Table of Contents:
1 Introduction: The Fury of the Northmen 1
2 Violence in a Violent Time 15
3 Röriks at Home and Away: Viking Age Emigration 45
4 Ships, Boats, and Ferries to the Afterworld 71
5 Coins, Silk, and Herring: Viking Age Trade in Northern Europe 99
6 From Chieftains to Kings 131
7 At Home on the Farm 157
8 The Religions of the North 181
9 Arts and Letters 213
10 Epilogue: The End of the Viking Age 241
Further Reading 249
List of Illustrations 289