Viking Pirates and Christian Princes: Dynasty, Religion, and Empire in the North Atlantic

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Overview

In popular imagination, the Vikings are remembered as fierce warrior seamen who campaigned through Western Europe, terrorizing British, Frankish, and Irish societies. Yet is it possible that the great Viking armies left more in their wake than carnage and destruction? The stories of two families-the Olafssons, who transformed a pirate camp in Ireland into the kingdom of Dublin, and the Haraldssons, whose rule encompassed Hebrides, Galloway, and the Isle of Man-suggest that the Vikings did indeed leave behind a much greater legacy.
Between the tenth and twelfth centuries, these two Viking families, descendants of men whom earlier chroniclers dismissed as pagan pirates, established themselves as Christian rulers whose domain straddled the Scandinavian and Celtic worlds. The Olafssons and Haraldssons carved out empires that inspired fear and made their families fabulously wealthy. From their ranks came the settlers who gave name to the Danelaw in Britain, Fingal in Ireland, and Normandy in Francia. Celebrated in Icelandic sagas and poems, Irish tales, and French history, the Olafssons and Haraldssons took part in the last successful Scandinavian invasion of Britain and the overthrow of the last Old English kingdom, even as they allied with, fought against, and married their Irish neighbors.
Though the families had come to these lands as conquerors, they soon learned the importance of cooperating with those they had vanquished. Even as they worshipped pagan gods, the Olafssons and Haraldssons both became important benefactors to the Christian church. They also played a crucial role in the economic revival of northern Europe as trading ships from their ports sailed throughout the Atlantic and the goods they produced traveled as far west as Canada. Under their rule, the seas became a connector for a shared culture, commercially, artistically, and socially.
Challenging traditional views of the Vikings' culture, Benjamin Hudson shows the role that these two great dynasties played in the Second Viking age. The rise and transformation of the Olafssons and Haraldsssons from the tenth to the twelfth centuries highlights a period and people important for understanding the political, religious, and cultural development of Europe in the High Middle Ages.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The strength of this volume lies in Hudson's unparalleled familiarity with an exceedingly broad range of sourcesThis book, like its prequels, should be in every library."—Alex Woolf, Early Medieval Europe

"Viking Pirates and Christian Princes represents a substantial and highly original contribution to the subject, dealing as it does not just with the Vikings in the Irish Sea basin, but also offering new perspectives and insights into Irish, English, Scottish, Scandinavian, and Continental history of the ninth to eleventh centuries. Hudson has succeeded in rewriting and reshaping our understanding of a very obscure but complex period in medieval history. This is an important, bold, exciting and fresh piece of historical scholarship that has relevance for British, European, and Scandinavian historians alike."—R. Andrew McDonald, Brock University

"Hudson's new book offers invaluable insights into the extensive network of familial and political relationships that lay at the heart of politics in the North Atlantic during the 'Second Viking Age.' His careful study of the Olafsson and Haraldsson dynasties recreates the excitement of an age of transition during which pirates and plunderers became pious Christian princes."—Robin Chapman Stacey, University of Washington

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195162370
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 3/28/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 296
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 6.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Benjamin Hudson is an Associate Professor of History and Medieval Studies at Pennsylvania State University. He is the author of The Prophecy of Berchán: Irish and Scottish Highkings in the Early Middle Ages and Kings of Celtic Scotland.

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Table of Contents

1 Two rivers and the origins of Olaf Cuaran 19
2 Battle, marriage, and empire 33
3 Pirate kings of the islands 56
4 Sitric Silkenbeard 79
5 From Dublin to England and Norway 107
6 The brief ascendancy of the Haraldssons 128
7 The contest for supremacy in the Irish Sea 156
8 Lords of the Isles 177
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