Enemy and Ancestor: Viking Identities and Ethnic Boundaries in England and Normandy, c.950 – c.1015
By Katherine Clare Cross
PhD Dissertation, University College London, 2014
Abstract: This thesis is a comparison of ethnicity in Viking Age England and Normandy. It focuses on the period c.950-c.1015, which begins several generations after the initial Scandinavian settlements in both regions. The comparative approach enables an investigation into how and why the two societies’ inhabitants differed in their perceptions of viking heritage and its impact on ethnic relations in this period. Written sources provide the key to these perceptions: genealogies, histories, hagiographies, charters and law codes.
The thesis is the first study to juxtapose and compare these sources and aspects of Viking Age England and Normandy. The approach to ethnicity is informed by the social sciences, especially Fredrik Barth’s Ethnic Groups and Boundaries. The emphasis here is on ethnic identity as a social construct and as a product of belief in group membership. In particular, this investigation treats ethnic identity separately from cultural markers such as names, dress, appearance, and art. In doing so, it presents a new perspective in discussions of assimilation after Scandinavian settlement.
For the purpose of analysis, ‘ethnicity’ has been divided into three strands: genealogical, historical and geographical identity. Sources from England and Normandy are compared within each of the three strands. The thesis demonstrates the development of a single ‘viking’ group identity in Normandy, which was defined in distinction to the Franks.
In England, on the other hand, ‘viking’ and ‘Scandinavian’ identities held various meanings and were deployed in diverse situations. No single group laid exclusive claim to viking heritage, nor completely rejected it. Ultimately, it is argued that viking identity was used as a tool in political and military conflicts. It was not an expression of association with Scandinavian allies, but most often was used as a more local means of distinction within England and Normandy.