The Vikings: A History

The Vikings: A History

3.7 20
by Robert Ferguson
     
 

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The Viking Age effectively began in 793 with an attack on the monastery at Lindisfarne. "The church of St. Cuthbert is spattered with the blood of the priests of God," fumed the Northumbrian cleric Alcuin. Adventurers who roamed from Constantinople to the new world, conquerors of England, settlers of Russia, the medieval Scandinavians never lose their capacity to

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Overview

The Viking Age effectively began in 793 with an attack on the monastery at Lindisfarne. "The church of St. Cuthbert is spattered with the blood of the priests of God," fumed the Northumbrian cleric Alcuin. Adventurers who roamed from Constantinople to the new world, conquerors of England, settlers of Russia, the medieval Scandinavians never lose their capacity to fascinate. As the Vikings roamed, their influence spread, from their ingeniously designed longboats to their stormy pantheon of gods and goddesses. Robert Ferguson combines his own expertise with the latest archaeological evidence to create a superb portrait of the Vikings, a people whose profound impact has made them a compelling subject since that first fateful raid on Lindisfarne.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Ferguson (Enigma: The Life of Knut Hamsun; Henrik Ibsen: A New Biography) offers a comprehensive overview of the Viking age, covering mythology and tradition alongside the many bloody forays Viking warriors made into Europe and the North Atlantic between roughly 790 and 1100 C.E. Although Ferguson often notes how incomplete the source material is, he tells a full and lively story and is transparent about where records or interpretations diverge. The narrative occasionally threatens to get bogged down in a confusion of Olafs, Olavs, and Olofs, but Ferguson keeps the pace up with numerous fascinating tidbits. He describes Viking words still used in modern English, the Viking origins of major British cities, and the dark rituals the community hung onto as Christianity crept into Denmark, Scandinavia, and Iceland, eventually bringing the population into a more peaceful modernity. VERDICT Ferguson has produced a readable and accessible book that will serve as a solid introduction to Viking history, even for those with no previous knowledge of the subject.—Elizabeth Goldman, Kingston Frontenac P.L., Ont.\
Kirkus Reviews
Scandinavian studies scholar Ferguson puts the violence back in the Viking Age in his knotty, dense, intriguing look at these restless voyagers and conquerors. The so-called Viking Age-roughly between 793 CE, with the raid on the island of Lindisfarne, and 1066, with the Battle of Hastings-got under way when the sea-faring Norsemen began their marauding infiltrations of the British Isles and the European continent, venturing as far as Muslim Spain and Constantinople. The motivation for their movement south is sometimes attributed to the overpopulation and scant resources of their Scandinavian homelands, but Ferguson debunks this idea, advancing the case of holy war in retaliation for the slaughter of Saxons by the crusading Christians under Charlemagne. These pagan seaborne raiders were violent, terrifying and merciless, and Ferguson traces their plundering devastation across a vast swath of territory: the Shetland and Orkney islands, where they wiped out the native Picts; Ireland and England, where they established strongholds; Normandy, where the Carolingian rulers appeased them by offering land and fortunes and their leader Rollo eventually converted; across the Baltic into Slavic lands; Seville and the Iberian peninsula; and Iceland and Greenland, with brief treks to Newfoundland. Ferguson notes how the study of place-names reveals the extent to which the Vikings seized control. He looks at Viking culture and pre-Christian beliefs, such as their rich cosmology and myths, skaldic verse, strong sense of communal responsibility, a view to an afterlife evident from burial ceremonies and an ingrained employment of law-the Danelaw. The author also examines King Harald Bluetooth's monumentto his conversion, the pyramidal rune-stone in Jelling, Denmark. Ferguson's scholarly study requires close attention, but the intellectual rewards are plentiful. Provides a significant deepening of our knowledge of the Vikings.
From the Publisher
"Integrating archaeological, genetic, linguistic, and literary information, Ferguson realizes a Viking history bound to satisfy." —Booklist

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780143118015
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
09/28/2010
Pages:
464
Sales rank:
91,558
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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From the Publisher
"Integrating archaeological, genetic, linguistic, and literary information, Ferguson realizes a Viking history bound to satisfy." —-Booklist

Meet the Author

Robert Ferguson began his literary career as a radio dramatist, translating and adapting for radio works by Knut Hamsun and Henrik Ibsen for the BBC. His first literary biography was Enigma: The Life of Knut Hamsun, which was nominated for the Los Angeles Times Best Biography Award. As well as literary biographies, Ferguson has written two novels, published in Norwegian.

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