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Posted September 12, 2009
The fury of the Northmen
A fairly good overview of the Viking period of Scandinavian history. The book mainly follows the exploits of the Viking kings, from Harald Fairhair through such later leaders as Hakon the Good, Olav Trygvasson and St. Olav ("the Stout"), Svein Forkbeard and his descendents, and finaly Harald the Ruthless; although it does cover other elements of Viking culture, such as settlement in the Shetlands and Orkneys and Ireland, the founding of Russia, and the exploration of Iceland, Greenland and Vinland (the earliest European name for North America). The drawback of this book is the main drawback of most history books: it concentrates on wars, conflicts, explorations, etc., but gives very little attention to the human contexts of these things -- that is, the historical cultures against which these episodes played out. This is, to an extent, understandable here, as Vikings were specifically the criminal and pirate element of Scandanavian society, and so a history of Vikings proper would not do more than touch on these aspects. But it is still regretable.
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Posted November 28, 2009
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