Monday, October 20, 2014

The Age of Vikings by Anders Winroth

Crime did pay. That seems to be one of the messages of The Age of the Vikings by Anders Winroth, a new history of the Norse warriors from Princeton University Press. Being from an academic press, the book is academic in tone, as you might expect, but there are interesting ideas and stories within its ten chapters. One is that the acquisition of booty from raiding coastal towns of Britain and continental Europe helped transform violent people of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden into mainstream European Christians. Winroth focuses on the 8th through 11th centuries during which the Scandinavians joined the European community.

Winroth describes Viking warfare, exploration, shipbuilding, trade, monarchies, religion, arts, and literature. There is sometimes not really as much detail as I would have liked, but there are many gaps in Viking story. Its warlords had skalds (poets), but they were
not concerned with written accounts, and the writers of rune stones were deliberately misleading. Scholars are still scratching their heads trying to sort out the truth about the Vikings.

Some readers will enjoy The Age of the Vikings because there are still some mysteries, such as just how did they make it to North America and why are there so many Arab coins found in Scandinavian digs? There is still something about which to wonder.

Winroth, Anders. The Age of the Vikings. Princeton University Press, 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780691149851.

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