The Vikings: culture and conquest
, 2006 - History
- 244 pages
In the closing decade of the eighth century, Christian Europe was shocked to its core by a series of devastating attacks from the still pagan Scandinavia. The Vikings, almost without warning, rapidly became the most serious threat to trade, religion and vested political interests that Europe had yet experienced. The story of the Vikings is thus one of the most dramatic in European history. After their first impact as fearsome raiders, destroying monasteries and plundering coastal settlements, the Vikings turned to conquest in England, Ireland and Normandy. In their longships they also penetrated into the Mediterranean and as far as Byzantium, as well as establishing settlements in Iceland and Greenland, and discovering Vinland, or America. By the mid-ninth century, Viking armies had established themselves as major political presences throughout Western Europe. In France, Viking depredations led to the founding of the Norman dynasty; in England, it would lead to the coronation of a Danish king; in Eastern Europe, Vikings overran great swathes of the Slavic territories and went on to sack ancient Byzantium. Yet the Viking expansion also opened up major trading routes and remapped the known world, both territorially and genetically. In the centuries following the Viking Age, this most striking and bloody period of the Dark Ages inspired Scandinavian historians to construct and elaborate their cultural identity around the romance of their ancestors. Much of our contemporary image of them derives from these colorful accounts. This book pieces together commentaries from sources contemporary to the Viking Age, archaeological findings and later histories to give a full picture of the Vikings: their origins their impact, their demise, and their legacy. The Vikings is a concise, and clear survey of who the Vikings were, what they did, why they did it and how we know about them. It includes an account of their remarkable saqa literature and will become a standard work on the subject.