The Age of Vikings

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age of vikings winroth.gif

The Age of Vikings


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

"[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


"Comprehensive and colorful, Anders Winroth's The Age of the Vikings paints a lively picture of the era when northern raiders altered the political and social complexion of much of Europe. With its cross-disciplinary approach, engagement with recent archaeological developments, and striking narrative style, The Age of the Vikings offers students of medieval history a vivid portrayal of life among Vikings, non-Viking Scandinavians, and those impacted by Viking activities during one of the West's most tumultuous periods."--Stephen Mitchell, Harvard University

"This stimulating book draws on contemporary texts and the latest archaeological evidence to bring the Viking age to life. Winroth's lucid discussion of the problems posed by runic inscriptions and skaldic verse is especially welcome. So too is his insistence that, in their efforts to obtain the treasure on which their power depended, Viking chieftains were no more violent than their Christian contemporaries."--Peter Sawyer, editor of The Oxford Illustrated History of the Vikings

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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
Acknowledgments 253
Abbreviations 255
Notes 257
Bibliography 275
List of Illustrations 289
Index 293

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