Viking Pirates and Christian Princes: Dynasty, Religion, and Empire in the North Atlantic

Front Cover
In popular imagination, the Vikings are remembered as fierce warrior seamen who campaigned through Western Europe, terrorizing British, Frankish, and Irish societies. Yet is it possible that the great Viking armies left more in their wake than carnage and destruction? The stories of two families-the Olafssons, who transformed a pirate camp in Ireland into the kingdom of Dublin, and the Haraldssons, whose rule encompassed Hebrides, Galloway, and the Isle of Man-suggest that the Vikings did indeed leave behind a much greater legacy.
Between the tenth and twelfth centuries, these two Viking families, descendants of men whom earlier chroniclers dismissed as pagan pirates, established themselves as Christian rulers whose domain straddled the Scandinavian and Celtic worlds. The Olafssons and Haraldssons carved out empires that inspired fear and made their families fabulously wealthy. From their ranks came the settlers who gave name to the Danelaw in Britain, Fingal in Ireland, and Normandy in Francia. Celebrated in Icelandic sagas and poems, Irish tales, and French history, the Olafssons and Haraldssons took part in the last successful Scandinavian invasion of Britain and the overthrow of the last Old English kingdom, even as they allied with, fought against, and married their Irish neighbors.
Though the families had come to these lands as conquerors, they soon learned the importance of cooperating with those they had vanquished. Even as they worshipped pagan gods, the Olafssons and Haraldssons both became important benefactors to the Christian church. They also played a crucial role in the economic revival of northern Europe as trading ships from their ports sailed throughout the Atlantic and the goods they produced traveled as far west as Canada. Under their rule, the seas became a connector for a shared culture, commercially, artistically, and socially.
Challenging traditional views of the Vikings' culture, Benjamin Hudson shows the role that these two great dynasties played in the Second Viking age. The rise and transformation of the Olafssons and Haraldsssons from the tenth to the twelfth centuries highlights a period and people important for understanding the political, religious, and cultural development of Europe in the High Middle Ages.

What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.


Two Rivers and the Origins of Olaf Cuaran
Battle Marriage and Empire
Pirate Kings of the Islands
Sitric Silkenbeard
From Dublin to England and Norway
The Brief Ascendancy of the Haraldssons
The Contest for Supremacy in the Irish Sea
Lords of the Isles
Selected Bibliography

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

Popular passages

Page 248 - LEABHAR NA H-UIDHRI. A Collection of Pieces in Prose and Verse, in the Irish Language, transcribed about...
Page 249 - Historic of Cambria, now called Wales: A part of the most famous Yland of Brytaine, written in the Brytish language above two hundreth yeares past: translated into English by H. Lhoyd, gentleman: Corrected, augmented, and continued out of Records and best approoved Authors, by David Powel, Doctor in Divinitie.
Page 244 - Asser. Life of King Alfred, together with the Annals of St. Neots, erroneously ascribed to Asser. Edited with Introduction and Commentary by W. H . Stevenson, MA 2 vols. Crown 8vo. Aubrey. ' Brief Lives,' chiefly of Contemporaries, set down by John Aubrey, between the Years 1669 and 1696.
Page 244 - Book of Leinster, formerly Lebar na Nuachongbala, ed. RI Best, Osborn Bergin, MA O'Brien, and Anne O'Sullivan (6 vols, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1954-83) Lebor na Cert; The Book of Rights, ed.
Page 244 - The Anglo-Norman Voyage of St. Brendan, ed. Ian Short and Brian Merrilees. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1979.

About the author (2005)

Benjamin Hudson is an Associate Professor of History and Medieval Studies at Pennsylvania State University. He is the author of The Prophecy of Berch´┐Żn: Irish and Scottish Highkings in the Early Middle Ages and Kings of Celtic Scotland.

Bibliographic information