THE VIKINGS by Neil Oliver


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Scottish archaeologist Oliver (A History of Scotland: Look Behind the Mist and Myth of Scottish History, 2009) explores the vast influence of the relatively short Viking Age.

The Viking Age began with the raid on Lindisfarne in 793 and lasted until the Norman invasion in 1066. The Vikings invaded, and often stayed, in lands from Turkey, and possibly Persia, all the way to Greenland. The men sought land, escape from harsh rulers, adventure, power and, most importantly, riches. When the Vikings invaded, they demanded and got enormous sums of Danegeld, a tax raised to pay tribute to them. It is reported that Aethelred the Unready (or poorly advised) paid 48,000 pounds (in weight) of silver in what was pure blackmail. The round-bottom, oar-driven boats used by the Swedish Vikings could not survive in the rigors of the North Sea and beyond, but they were excellent for entering rivers that led to the Black Sea. It was the invention of the keel that loosed the Norwegians, along with the Danes, on the West. These larger sailboats allowed them into the North Sea and inexorably onward through Scotland, Ireland, England, France and into the Mediterranean. They affected the destinies of all they met, established the first true democracy in Iceland and, as an unintended result, even spread Christianity. Their conversion was purely pragmatic and political; they understood that Christian barbarism was more acceptable than that of the great heathen hordes. Oliver had few resources for this history: coinage, archaeology and written records. While the Vikings left no written records, their victims did.

The author has studied his sources in depth and provides a great chronicle of these nation-shapers who stretched the limits of the known world.

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-60598-483-4
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Pegasus
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2013


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