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New Medieval Books: Vikings and the Norse World

Ten books published in 2019 that tells us all about the Vikings and the Norse World.

The Vikings

By Saebjorg Walaker Nordeide and Kevin J. Walker

ARC Humanities Press
ISBN: 9781942401896

Excerpt: “The Vikings” hold a universal fascination which has persisted for centuries. From the horrific tales of Alcuin of York in the eight century CE/AD and the eleventh century Adam of Bremen, via the heroic saga literature of Iceland recorded in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, through to nineteenth century Scandinavian romanticism, the Norsemen have engendered fear and occasional admiration.

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Norse-Gaelic Contacts in a Viking World

By C. Etchingham, J. V. Sigurðsson, M. Ní Mhaonaigh, E. Ashman Rowe

Brepols
ISBN: 978-2-503-57902-3

This multi-disciplinary volume draws on the combined expertise of specialists in the history and literature of medieval Ireland, Iceland, Norway, and Scotland to shed new light on the interplay of Norse and Gaelic literary traditions. Through four detailed case-studies, which examine the Norwegian Konungs skuggsjá, the Icelandic Njáls saga and Landnámabók, and the Gaelic text Baile Suthach Sith Emhna, the volume explores the linguistic, cultural, and political contacts that existed between Norse and Gaelic speakers in the High Middle Ages, and examines the impetus behind these texts, including oral tradition, transfer of written sources, and authorial adaption and invention. Crucially, these texts are not only examined as literary products of the thirteenth century, but also as repositories of older historical traditions, and the authors seek to explore these wider historical contexts, as well as analyse how and why historical and literary material was transmitted. The volume contains English translations of key extracts and also provides a detailed discussion of sources and methodologies to ensure that this milestone of scholarship is accessible to both students and subject-specialists.

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Architecture, Society, and Ritual in Viking Age Scandinavia: Doors, Dwellings, and Domestic Space

By Marianne Hem Eriksen

Cambridge University Press
ISBN: 9781108667043

Overview: In this book, Marianne Hem Eriksen explores the social organization of Viking Age Scandinavia through a study of domestic architecture, and in particular, the doorway. A highly charged architectural element, the door is not merely a practical, constructional solution. Doors control access, generate movement, and demark boundaries, yet also serve as potent ritual objects. For this study, Eriksen analyzes and interprets the archaeological data of house remains from Viking Age Norway, which are here synthesized for the first time. Using social approaches to architecture, she demonstrates how the domestic space of the Viking household, which could include masters and slaves, wives and mistresses, children and cattle, was not neutral. Quotidian and ritual interactions with, through, and orchestrated by doorways prove to be central to the production of a social world in the Viking Age. Eriksen’s book challenges the male-dominated focus of research on the Vikings and expands research questions beyond topics of seaborne warriors, trade, and craft.

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The Viking Eastern Baltic

By Marika Magi

ARC Humanities Press
ISBN: 978641890977

Excerpt: The very latest research shows that the Viking influence on the eastern coasts of the Baltic Sea and today’s Russia was at least as significant as their westward – and much better known – influence in the North Atlantic. At any rate, based on current information, raids in the Baltic Sea were earlier than the Vikings’ first forays into Western Europe. This book discusses the impact of the Viking Age Scandinavians on the Eastern Baltic region – an impact entailing variously pillaging, raids, military and commercial cooperation.

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Viking Silver, Hoards and Containers: The Archaeological and Historical Context of Viking-Age Silver Coin Deposits in the Baltic, c.800-1050

By Jacek Gruszcynski

Routledge
ISBN: 9780815373360

Excerpt: I felt that if I am to understand the role of hoards in Viking-Age society and economy I must understand which perception, at least with regards to hoarding, prevailed among the societies handling silver in the Viking-Age Baltic zone. In essence, can I develop a sound argument for recognising silver as a material resource with economic value, while also acknowledging the significance of silver in other social and ritual spheres, the existence of other rationalities which defy any economic logic in a modern view? Can these two modes of hoarding be quantified, qualified and distinguished based on the information available presently?

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God’s Viking: Harald Hardrada 

By Nic Fields

Pen & Sword
ISBN: 9781473823426

Overview: Harald Hardrada is perhaps best known as the inheritor of ‘seven feet of English soil’ in that year of fateful change, 1066. But Stamford Bridge was the terminal point of a warring career that spanned decades and continents. Thus, prior to forcibly occupying the Norwegian throne, Harald had an interesting (and lucrative) career in the Varangian Guard, and he remains unquestionably the most notable of all the Varangians who served the Byzantine emperors: in the latter employment he saw active service in the Aegean, Sicily, Italy, Anatolia, Syria, Palestine and Bulgaria, while in Constantinople he was the hired muscle behind a palace revolution. A man of war, his reign in Norway was to be taken up with a wasteful, vicious and ultimately futile conflict against Denmark, a kingdom (like England) he believed was his to rule. We follow Harald’s life from Stiklestad, where aged fifteen he fought alongside his half-brother king Olaf, through his years as a mercenary in Russia and Byzantium, then back to Norway, ending with his death in battle in England.

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Evergreen Ash: Ecology and Catastrophe in Old Norse Myth and Literature

By Christopher Abram

University of Virginia Press
ISBN: 9780813942278

Excerpt: How does one live in hell on earth? How does one deal with the constant imminence of environmental catastrophe? We spend enough time wondering when the end of the world will happen – but what will it be like, how should we respond to it? These are some of the ideas I wish to explore in this book and some of the questions I should like to answer.

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Eastern Europe in Icelandic Sagas

By Tatjana N. Jackson

ARC Humanties Press
ISBN: 9781641890267

Overview: Based on the material of the Old Norse Icelandic sources written down in the twelfth to fourteenth centuries, this book demonstrates how medieval Scandinavians imagined Eastern Europe. It reconstructs the system of medieval Scandinavian perception of space in general, and the eastern part of the oecumene in particular. It also examines the unique information of these sources, of which the Russian chronicles were unaware: namely, the saga and skaldic poetry data concerning the visits of the four Norwegian kings to Old Rus in the late-tenth and mid-eleventh centuries.

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The Saga of the Sister Saints: The Legend of Martha and Mary Magdalen in Old Norse-Icelandic Translation

By Natalie M. Van Deusen

Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies
ISBN: 978-0-88844-214-7

Overview: This book examines the cults and legends of Martha and Mary Magdalen in medieval Scandinavia, especially Iceland. While a number of parallels may be drawn between Iceland and mainland Scandinavia in terms of liturgical and artistic representations of Martha and Mary Magdalen, the Old Norse-Icelandic literary tradition stands apart from its Scandinavian counterparts in the cultural significance and relevance it gives to each of the “sister saints” in medieval Iceland, where the composite Mǫrtu saga ok Maríu Magðalenu was compiled in the mid-fourteenth century. The book concludes with a normalized edition of the only complete redaction of Mǫrtu saga ok Maríu Magðalenu, followed by its first English translation.

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The Viking Way: Magic and Mind in Late Iron Age Scandinavia

By Neil Price

Oxbow Books
978-1-84217-260-5
Second Edition

Excerpt: Ultimately, this book argues for the existence of a particular concept of social power in early medieval Scandinavia – almost a cast of mind – intricate in its mechanisms, perceived as supernaturally-based, and gender-specific in its manifestation. It will be suggested that violence, both latent and applied, played a crucial role in this construct, articulated by means of a ritual ‘motor’ for the physical prosecution of warfare. Although highly variable both regionally and over time, it is argued that this aspect of social relations nevertheless formed one of the defining elements in the world-view of the Scandinavians during the later Iron Age. It may also be seen as one of the key factors that decided the form taken by the Conversion process in the North.

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