Viking history

Below is a selection of excellent books about the history of the Vikings. These books deal primarily with the viking empire and its rise and fall, as well as overall issues about the influence of the vikings, their travels and conquests, and so forth.

  Title/author Description Order from:
Oxford Illustrated History of the Vikings The Oxford Illustrated History of the Vikings, by Peter Sawyer One of the best books on the Vikings. It has numerous contributors from many universities, each chapter is written with detailed authority and offers a fresh perspective. The chronology at the back of the book is a bonus feature. However, despite chapters on exploration to the west, Sawyer still tends to let the British perspective of victimization by the Vikings dominate the book. And the chapter "The Vikings in History and Legend" insinuates that those who take pride in their Viking heritage are Nazis. This chapter is inappropriate and hurts this book. Amazon US
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The Norsemen in the Viking Age The Norsemen in the Viking Age (The Peoples of Europe), by Eric Christiansen One of the best books on the vikings ever. It offers an updated vision on the norsemen using several approaches (archaeology, literature, anthropology). The bibliography is extensive and very recent in general. Shows, for instance, how Viking towns were really loose confederations of families and tribes. Very good book! Amazon US
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The Vikings, A History, by Robert Ferguson The Vikings: A History, by Robert Ferguson In this definitive history, Robert Ferguson presents the extraordinary story of the Nordic warriors and explorers. He sets the Viking age (c. 790-1100) within the context of European history and illuminates how this era of plunder and trade ultimately enhanced the development of political and cultural ideas in both Scandinavia and post-Roman Western Europe.

Drawing on the latest research, The Vikings at once acknowledges the terrible violence of conquest while expanding our view of the humane depth of Nordic accomplishments in the arts, commerce, government, and exploration.

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Vikings, the North Atlantic Saga Vikings : The North Atlantic Saga, by William W. Fitzhugh and Elizabeth I. Ward A book which should be on the shelves of any ordinary person who is seriously interested in the subject. The book is an edited volume written by a number of authors of differing views. Loaded with huge beautiful pictures of everything from ancient maps to medieval Scandinavian jewelry to charts of what individual experts think the Vikings dubbed "Vinland", this book has it all. Someone familiar with the subject will find it gorgeously re-introduced in this extremely professional layout, and yet anyone new to the subject will find this book to be inviting, informative, and fun to read. Amazon US
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Viking World, by James Graham-Campbell Viking World, by James Graham-Campbell A pictorial history which is a rich resource for exploring Viking life, art, and technology. The book is organized into four sections, and focuses on origins, ascendancy in Scandinavia, overseas adventures, and decline. Full-color photographs show craft work, ship replicas, archaeological artifacts, and many other objects illustrating the range of Viking culture. It also includes useful maps,and ground-level and aerial photographs from sites along the coastlines of Europe, North America, Great Britain, and inland Russia , which show the extent of Viking travels during the height of their civilization. Amazon US
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The Vikings and their Origins The Vikings and Their Origins: Scandinavia in the First Millennium, by David M. Wilson This excellent book gives a broad introduction to the Vikings. It describes the history and culture of the Vikings as well as their influence on European civilization. Amazon US
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Viking Pirates and Christian Princes Viking Pirates and Christian Princes: Dynasty, Religion, and Empire in the North Atlantic, by Benjamin Hudson Viking Pirates and Christian Princes is a very detailed and specific book that focuses on one geographical area through a particular period of time. It is not a general introduction to Viking history overall, but rather a look at one manifestation of that history in the seas between Ireland and Scotland, Wales and the Isles therein. Focusing on the Haraldson family and the descendents of Olaf Cuaran, the book attempts to show that the Vikings had a much wider impact on the surrounding peoples than just raiding and plundering by following two powerful families and their political machinations.

"The strength of this volume lies in Hudson's unparalleled familiarity with an exceedingly broad range of sources. "--Alex Woolf, Early Medieval Europe

"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

"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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The Pelikan Historical Atlas of the Vikings The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Vikings (Hist Atlas), by John Haywood This atlas is one of the best possible collections of our knowledge about early Scandinavia. It also does a great job of talking about all the players in the Nordic countries. The book is a great resource for scholars as well.

The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Vikings is one of the best summaries of the Viking era. The text is well edited, to-the-point, and contains all important historical details. The illustrations and maps complement the text's materials. The writing deals with major military events of the Viking era, but also discloses details on everyday life, rural and urban settlements, trade activities and much more of medieval Scandinavia.

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The Vikings: Voyagers of Discovery and Plunder The Vikings: Voyagers of Discovery and Plunder (General Military), R. Chartrand

The Vikings have long been portrayed as ruthless barbarians who pillaged and sacked. To gain this depth, consult The Vikings: Voyagers Of Discovery And Plunder. It has detailed surveys of their seafaring exploits, their history, and all that's known about major figures in Viking lore. It spans from Viking ships to how they raided around the world and established world empires. It also is easy to read, has a glossary, and top-notch illustrators by Angus McBride.

Praise:

"...one is left with an understanding and appreciation of what these people were really like. An excelling book and one that I can recommend for a fascinating read. Full of quality period photographs, superb art work and maps... [this book] is a riveting and superbly written book that you really need to have on your shelves." -Scott Van Aken, modelingmadness.com

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King Harald's Saga King Harald's Saga: Harald Hardradi of Norway: From Snorri Sturluson's Heimskringla (Penguin Classics), by Snorri Sturluson

A book full of adventure and action! It is hard to grasp that this is no made-up tale (though it may contain some made-up elements). It tells of the adventures of one of the last true viking kings, Harald Hardrada, who was certainly a pirate king par excellence.

This saga is lifted out of Heimskringla (the Norse book of kings by Snorri Sturlasson). It records the flight and adventures of Harald Sigurdsson, brother of the deposed and slain King Olaf Haraldsson. Harald, a youth of 15 stands by his elder brother at Stiklstad, with a sword tied into his hands so he will not lose it in battle, but Olaf is finally brought down and Harald must flee with other survivors. Harald makes his way down the sinuous river route from the viking stronghold of Holmgarth to Kiev and then on to Constantinople where he wins a place in the Byzantine Emperor's Varangian Guard.

In the land of the Byzantines Harald rises to prominence, being a man of great size and military accomplishments. He soon achieves captaincy of the Guard and the trust of the Byzantines, leading expedition after expedition against the Byzantines' enemies in the Mediterannean. The he returns home, and becomes a king.

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A History of the Vikings, Gwyn Jones A History of the Vikings, by Gwyn Jones

The subject is the Viking realms, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, their civilization and culture, and their many sided achievements at home and abroad. Its narrative follows the development of these Northern peoples - the Nordmenn - from their origins and the legendary pre-history to the military triumphs of Canute and the defeat of Harald Hardradi at Stamford Bridge in 1066, which symbolically ended the Viking age.

The book recounts the Vikings' exploits in war, trade, and colonization: the assault on Western Christendom; the trading and military ventures to the Slav and Muslim worlds and to Byzantium; and the western voyages of discovery and settlement to Greenland, Iceland, and America.

Praise:
An utterly splendid book, quite the most brilliantly written, balanced, and explanative general work on the Vikings ever to appear in English or in any language."-- Scandinavian Studies

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The Vikings, Martin Arnold The Vikings: Wolves of War (Critical Issues in History), by Martin Arnold This concise and balanced history traces the 300-year saga of the pirates and warlords who poured out of Scandinavia between the eighth and eleventh centuries, terrorizing, conquering, and ultimately settling vast stretches of Europe. Drawing on rich source material, he first focuses on Viking culture, religious beliefs, and battle tactics and weaponry. He then ranges over the four main theaters of Viking activity-the British Isles, Western Europe, the Slavic regions, and the North Atlantic. Arnold vividly illustrates the two faces of the Vikings: on the one hand, savage, greedy, and implacable; on the other, adventurous, innovative, and artistic. Amazon US
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