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The Oxford Illustrated History of the Vikings Hardcover – November 13, 1997

ISBN-13: 978-0198205265 ISBN-10: 0198205260

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Everyone feared the Vikings during their three centuries of terror, which lasted roughly from the start of the 8th century to the end of the 11th century. They are best remembered as cruel pagan raiders from the frigid north, but their vibrant warrior culture also managed to transform the north Atlantic and much of Russia through trade and settlement. Their seafaring exploits, passed down through the generations in a series of entertaining sagas, led them to Iceland, Greenland, and even North America (which they called "Vinland"). These accomplishments are truly extraordinary, and reveal how a group of people often belittled as cruel brutes actually expanded the frontiers of human knowledge. Peter Sawyer has pulled together a group of accomplished scholars, including Janet L. Nelson and Simon Keynes, to contribute chapters to this attractive, full-color volume. The Oxford Illustrated History of the Vikings contains the very latest information available about the Vikings and their often violent--but always intriguing--ways.

Review

`the volume will indeed be a treasury for pictorial sources, and the illustrations to more off-the-beaten-track chapters (especially Noonan's, on European Russia) are correspondingly unusual.' Guy Halsall, War in History, 8, 3, 2001

`This in-depth study examines the Viking world and its people, recognising the problems of interpretation and revealing a graphic picture of a rich heritage.' George Bott, The Keswick Reminder

`a scholarly, well illustrated survey edited by Peter Sawyers, which draws on recent research' Church Times
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 298 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (November 13, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198205260
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198205265
  • Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 1.1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #908,497 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
5 star
56%
4 star
31%
3 star
0%
2 star
13%
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See all 16 customer reviews
A very good analysis of Viking history.
DUAN ANDERSON
I am a big fan of the books printed by the Oxford University Press, and this book only reinforces my opinions of the publisher.
Kurt A. Johnson
The book is just what she wanted to fill in her knowledge of their History.
David Alexander Smathers

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

67 of 73 people found the following review helpful By Susan Zuckerman on April 6, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This is one of the best books on the Vikings I've ever read (and I've read dozens!). With numerous contributors from many universtities, each chapter is written with detailed authority and offers a fresh perspective. The chonology at the back of the book is a bonus feature. My only criticism is that, depspite chapters on exploration to the west (what I consider to be the most important legacy of the Vikings), Sawyer still tends to let the British perspective of victimization by the Vikings dominate the book.
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68 of 86 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 7, 2003
Format: Paperback
This book falls below what I would expect from Oxford (at least the traditional Oxford of yester-year). The pictures are nice as well as a lot of the text. The main problem with this book is the chapter "The Vikings in History and Ledgend." The author of this essay insinuates that those who take pride in their Viking heritage are Nazis. This chapter is full of inappropriate partisan politics and hurts this book. It reads like propoganda straight out of a typical ADL hate tract.
One reader has obviously fallen for this line (see below).
There are far-better books on the Vikings out there. Go for Gwen Jones for a more balanced account.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By ThorBjorn on August 13, 2009
Format: Paperback
A perfect reference is rare. This book is not a 100% perfect source of information on Nordic history, but its generally a good start for the uninitiated.

The primary value I found from this volume was a clarification of the literary sources, such as the Sagas, and how they relate to the study of Viking heritage. A considerable volume of Icelandic Sagas was actually found in the remains of a farm-house that was being demolished! Imagine what literature has already been lost forever, under similar circumstances. We will never know what we have lost. We have an idea of generally knowing what was lost, by what literary sources managed to be saved.

Here is an indication of Viking influence one-thousand years later:

If you have read some of the "history" written by stodgy, opinionated, British academics-types from the mid 19th century, you will see some laughable attempts by misguided nationalists to derisively dismis the Norse people as merely "rude, crude, pillaging barbarians". Such banter was rather common-place in Europe, with the nationalistic posturings of professors who overly-subscribed to glorified perceptions of their own nations' histories.

...But the truth, was far more complex!

The archeological findings of the last century, have shown us that the "crude barbarian" image of the Nordic people was quite inaccurate. The Sagas alone were already evidence enough.

DNA technology revealed something even more astounding. It turns out that, Britain has so much Nordic DNA in its population, they can almost be classified as a Nordic people themselves! The stodgy old professor didn't realize he was deriding an ancestor!

In our time, some fools naively and stupidly compare the Vikings to "Nazis". Absolutely ridiculous!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Michael K. Smith TOP 500 REVIEWER on March 15, 2012
Format: Paperback
If there's one thing that bugs me, it's the deliberate misuse of the language by people who know better. "Vikings" is widely used as if it refers to a nationality, while actually it was an occupation -- that of sea-borne raider -- engaged in on a usually temporary basis by men of every Scandinavian culture, plus more than a few Finns, Irishmen, and Anglo-Saxons. One really can't talk about "Viking settlers"; by definition, when they moved in and became permanent residents and farmers, they ceased being "vikings." A much better term is "Northmen," and that's what the authors of these eleven essays generally use, actually, once you get away from the publisher's Hollywood-influenced marketing decision on the title.

Because this is really quite a good book, a survey by a group of expert specialists of a harrowing time in European history for everyone but the Northmen themselves. For more than two centuries, from 793, when the first longships appeared at Lindisfarne to plunder the monastery, until around 1030, Scandinavian raiding parties made incursions throughout England, Ireland, Francia, northern Germany, what became European Russia, and even in Iberia and North Africa. It might be a handful of ships carrying a hundred men or it might be ten times that number. (The cause of all this activity still is disputable; it almost certainly was not population pressure.) Gradually, the raids in some areas turned into conquest and settlement, followed by acculturation. Knut became ruler of much of England, Rolf/Rollo established Normandy in northwestern France, and the Rus became the power on the upper Volga. The Byzantine emperors acquired an bodyguard of "Varangians," Iceland was settled from Norway, and Greenland from Iceland.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Kurt A. Johnson TOP 1000 REVIEWER on November 6, 2012
Format: Paperback
I am a big fan of the books printed by the Oxford University Press, and this book only reinforces my opinions of the publisher. The book does a great job of giving the history of the Northern European explorers/traders/raiders that are collectively known as "the Vikings." It covers the history of Viking activity in the Frankish Empire, and then throughout Western Europe and even further afield.

I found this to be a very interesting and informative book, which kept me up reading about the various spheres of Viking activity. I enjoyed the many illustrations in the book, which helped keep it from getting too heavy or boring. If you want a good, in-depth book on the Vikings, then this is no doubt the book you should get. I think it's great!
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