The Vikings: A History

The Vikings: A History

3.7 20
by Robert Ferguson
     
 

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A comprehensive and thrilling history of the Vikings for fans of the History Channel series

From Harald Bluetooth to Cnut the Great, the feared seamen and plunderers of the Viking Age ruled Norway, Sweden, and Denmark but roamed as far as Byzantium, Greenland, and America. Raiders and traders, settlers and craftsmen, the medieval Scandinavians who have

Overview

A comprehensive and thrilling history of the Vikings for fans of the History Channel series

From Harald Bluetooth to Cnut the Great, the feared seamen and plunderers of the Viking Age ruled Norway, Sweden, and Denmark but roamed as far as Byzantium, Greenland, and America. Raiders and traders, settlers and craftsmen, the medieval Scandinavians who have become familiar to history as Vikings never lose their capacity to fascinate, from their ingeniously designed longboats to their stormy pantheon of Viking gods and goddesses, ruled by Odin in Valhalla. Robert Ferguson is a sure guide across what he calls "the treacherous marches which divide legend from fact in Viking Age history." His long familiarity with the literary culture of Scandinavia with its skaldic poetry is combined with the latest archaeological discoveries to reveal a sweeping picture of the Norsemen, one of history's most amazing civilizations.

Impeccably researched and filled with compelling accounts and analyses of legendary Viking warriors and Norse mythology, The Vikings is an indispensable guide to medieval Scandinavia and is a wonderful companion to the History Channel series.

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

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781101151426
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
11/25/2009
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
464
Sales rank:
120,729
File size:
1 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

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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The Vikings 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
CecMonster More than 1 year ago
...and is writing, it seems, for people who know it as well. I found that this book tended to bounce around a lot in history. Though this is inevitable, it should be kept at a minimum, as constantly doing so makes it hard to place people, events, and developments in relative chronological order (making it difficult to discern cause and effect). Also, the book would occasionally become wrapped up in a particular burial site, ritual, event, source, or historical figure, and the overall history seems to suffer on its behalf. The final shortcoming is the lack of maps. It is hard to understand any history if you don't have a firm grasp on the relevant geography. The contradiction is that one must know the history in order to know what geography is "relevant." Hence, it is best for texts to include ample maps. This one does not do so. I found the portions on linguistic interchange and legal foundations very interesting. I probably would have enjoyed this book more if I had been more familiar with general Central and Eastern European and British history (and geography), as well as having a broad working knowledge of Scandinavian history. I guess one could say that my dissatisfaction with this book is attributable to my shortcomings as a reader. True, but most people aren't Viking gurus, and so they should steer clear of this book until they have already read a couple of other books about our friends of the north.
DagStomberg More than 1 year ago
Robert Ferguson has written some excellent biographies. This History of the Vikings has a special place in the many books about the Viking Age. Johannes Brondsted (THE VIKINGS 1960) a compelling compression, Gwyn Jones (A HISTORY OF THE VIKINGS 1984) has literary flair, Else Roesdahl (THE VIKINGS 1998) is a full and fascinating survey. Now, this book by Robert Ferguson has merit and rightly finds its place with the above and other scholars of many disciplines. In this history of the Viking World, every aspect of Viking life is examined. This book is recommended to a broad readership! Dag Stomberg
jcmMN More than 1 year ago
This book is full of information and insight into Viking culture and I really enjoyed it - particularly as a Norwegian American doing research on my ancestry. Be prepared, however, to wade through segments that are complicated and vacuum-packed with names and dates. You may have to really work at reading this book - as did I - but if you are interested in gaining an understanding of Viking history and times it is well worth it. You will learn much and no doubt find some surprises and even a few laughs. Good (though heavy) read.
CaliforniaLibrarian More than 1 year ago
Great book, if a bit dry at times. This is an exciting topic and the book is written in an engaging fashion, although as with any historical treatise, the information can at times be dense and less than exciting. As other reviewers have mentioned, the book skips around a bit in historic dates but i did not find this as problematic as others did. I can't recommend this book highly enough for those who are ready to delve deeper into the history of the people of the Scandinavian region, and the effect they had on the surrounding areas as well as the entire western world at the time.
Lilo02 More than 1 year ago
Very informative and full of facts on the Viking culture. It was awesome to be able to read and absorb the chapter of the Viking influence in my native country Latvia. I also found this book in some way to be a bit humorous in my own personal understanding. I bet trying to convert that group back in those days must have felt something like trying to talk to a cave man or something. However, the fact that the author does bounce around between events and time periods, thats what made this book such a drag to read. I think that if it was written in a way where all the events put into this book were somehow in a chronological order, it probably would have been different and better.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a high school sophomore and I read this book for my research project. I didn't enjoy this because I found too long and tedious to read. The facts were not that interesting and it made my brain hurt. I was very excited about learning more about the Viking culture, but this book did nothing to keep my excitement.
iclubsquirrels More than 1 year ago
Great information and insight into not just the vikings but the cultures they interacted with. However, its a very confusing read because it follows no sort of chronological order. One paragraph is in the 1200s and the next skips back to the 800s and the next is the 1000s. Its great for a research, but hard to keep up with for a leisurely read.
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carpeoreo More than 1 year ago
Engaging history of a fascinating people. Well worth a read if you are at all interested in the Vikings & their culture.
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