The Art and Culture of the Vikings

Below we list a number of excellent sources dealing with the arts and the culture of the Vikings. While there are a large number of books on these topics, we have looked for and included books that are founded in research and factually trustworthy, but that at the same time are written for a wider audience and are interesting to read for people wanting to learn more about the history and civilization of the Vikings.

  Title/author Description Order from
Vikings The Vikings: Revised Edition, by Else Roesdahl A survey of Viking civilization, originally published in Denmark, concentrating on the period c.750-c.1050. One chapter covers sources, and about one-third of the book deals with Viking expansion into Russia, Normandy, the British Isles, Iceland, Greenland, etc. Most of the book surveys the geography, people, society, religion, art, etc., of the Vikings' Scandinavian homelands, stressing the complexity of their civilization. The Vikings is a sober, factual, accurate account accessible to laypersons and reflecting recent scholarship. Amazon US
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Viking Clothing Viking Clothing, by Thor Ewing Contrary to popular myth, the Vikings had a reputation for neatness and their fashions were copied far beyond the realms of Scandinavia. Those who could afford to displayed a love of fine clothes made from silks, from lightweight worsteds in subtly woven twills, and from the finest of linens. This accessible new book is the first to tackle the question of what the Vikings wore, drawing on evidence from art and archaeology, literature, and linguistics to arrive at a fresh understanding of the nature of Viking clothing, covering rich and poor, men and women across Scandinavia. It includes an overview of Viking textiles and dyeing, and an exploration of cloth production and clothing in the context of Viking society as a whole, as well as a detailed consideration of both male and female outfits and a new interpretation of the suspended dress. Amazon US
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Women in Viking Age Women in the Viking Age, by Judith Jesch A very readable yet scholarly book. Jesch uses a large number of diverse sources to help us gain an understanding of women in the Viking Age. Archaeological evidence from grave sites gives much information about wealthy women in particular, and evidence from house-sites tell us more about ordinary women's lives. She also looks at how women are portrayed in art, myths and poetry.

There are numerous excellent photos and illustrations in this book. It is highly recommend it to anyone interested in Viking/Norse history.

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Women in Old Norse Society Women in Old Norse Society, by Jenny Jochens Women in Old Norse Society looks at the reality of women in the Viking Age, using the Icelandic Sagas and the recorded Laws as the main sources of information.

Paganism lasted much longer in Scandinavia than the rest of Europe, which meant women there enjoyed a more equal relationship with men for a considerably longer time. Jochens explores the Pagan-Christian conflict very fairly, looking at both the advantages and disadvantages the shift to Christianity brought for women. Jochens looks in great detail at important female issues such as marriage, reproduction, leisure and work. Especially fascinating is the "economics of homespun," or how women's economic contribution of woven cloth eventually became the main medium of exchange.

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This Tribe of Mine This Tribe of Mine: A Story of Anglo Saxon Viking Culture in America, by George Hiram Williston Is America the modern successor to the Viking culture of conquest and hoarding? This Tribe of Mine: A Story of Anglo Saxon Viking Culture in America is a book asking for something not typically associated with the image of the Viking: Peace. Comparing the United States to the Viking Barbarians of old and drawing frightening similarities, it is not an all out condemnation of the country's practices. Within, Williston also lays out advice for America to improve its ways for a better future for the world. This Tribe of Mine is an honest and eye opening book. Amazon US
Vikings in England The Vikings in England: Settlement, Society and Culture (Manchester Medieval Studies), by Dawn Hadley A fascinating new study which makes an important addition to the literature on the Vikings and their settlement in England. It offers a focussed discussion of often-neglected sources. Topics covered include the development of current debates regarding the settlement, Anglo-Scandinavian political accommodation, the differences and similarities between Scandinavian rural settlement and Scandinavians in the urban environment, the conversion of Scandinavians to Christianity, burial practices and associated issues of ethnicity, gender and social status. Amazon US
Northern Danelaw, D. M. Hadley Northern Danelaw: Its Social Structure, c.800-1100 (Studies in the Early History of Britain), by D. M. Hadley Investigating the changing nature of lordship and peasant statuses, the transformation of estate structures, the emergence of villages, and the development of the parish system, D. M. Hadley also explains the peculiarities of the northern Danelaw and reassesses the impact of the Scandinavian settlements on its society and culture.
This is a judicious and provocative study of the evolving social, tenurial, administrative, and ecclesiastical organization of the northern Danelaw.
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Viking Art Viking Art 2nd Edition The standard work on the subject, this book has detailed chapters on the six periods of Viking art together with many black-and-white plates of pieces both familiar and obscure (e.g., the Mammen belt findings). It includes 69 line drawings and 80 photographic plates showing details of Viking design. A must for craftsmen! Amazon US
Leadership Vikings Leadership Principles of the Vikings, by Jan Kallberg The Vikings were formidable adopters to the Dark Ages and were able to reach their strategic goals - land and wealth - and without losing their freedom or individualism they were able to build effective collective action to acquire what they wanted. The book has defined 19 principles of Viking leadership and explain how they laid a foundation for success under great uncertainty.
The Vikings had a unique approach to leadership that inspired, maximized, and utilized the opportunities that led Iron Age farmers to embark on a voyage in to the unknown and beyond - from Scandinavia to North America and as far as Central-Asia and Baghdad.
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The Viking Age The Viking Age: A Reader (Readings in Medieval Civilizations and Cultures), by Angus A. Somerville This is a very comprehive reader, where the diversity of the Viking world is illuminated in more than 100 readings contained in this primary source reader. The Norse translations, many of them new, are straightforward and easily accessible for students. The introductions contextualize the readings while allowing the sources to speak for themselves. All unfamiliar terms are explained unobtrusively in the body of the text. Thirteen black-and-white illustrations and one map provide visual context. Amazon US
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