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The Viking Age: A Reader, First Edition (Readings in Medieval Civilizations and Cultures)

Readings in Medieval Civilizations and Cultures: XIV


4.8 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1442601475
ISBN-10: 1442601477
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Editorial Reviews


The Viking Age is a most enjoyable and informative volume for dipping into. (The Medieval Review)

Somerville and McDonald should be congratulated for having compiled a most useful reader, one that is extraordinarily broad and as complete as one might wish for a thorough introduction to the Viking Age. It should be welcomed by instructors, students, and the general reader. (Journal of English and Germanic Philology) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.


The most comprehensive reader to have been published so far, The Viking Age: A Reader is a most welcome contribution for students of the Viking period. The editors are to be commended for the extensive presentation of insular and continental sources. This reader will be on the bookcases of students and more advanced scholars working on the Vikings. (Stefan Brink, University of Aberdeen)

Both the student seeking an introduction to the source materials and the scholar who wants accurate translations with helpful introductions will find The Viking Age: A Reader to be an essential addition to their library. The editors give equal attention to historical and literary texts while the topical division of materials is useful to those seeking specific information on culture, belief, and technology. Especially welcome are the selections dealing with themes outside the usual range of Viking studies such as Atlantic history. Mythological heroes and humble soldiers all have a voice in these selections from writings by and about the Vikings. (Benjamin Hudson, Pennsylvania State University)

In The Viking Age: A Reader, Somerville and McDonald weave a tapestry from contemporary and nearly contemporary documents representing the Vikings, warts and all. This well-structured book admirably introduces us to those early Scandinavians as pirates, raiders, farmers, merchants, homebodies, explorers, invaders, colonists or settlers, enemies, mercenaries, and allies to various Europeans. We see the Vikings at home and abroad as they saw themselves and as a wide variety of others saw them. Brief introductions to the documents translated here give the reader a clear idea of the reliability and limitations of those sources. The Viking Age gives its reader a very good trip though the Viking world. (George Clark, Professor Emeritus, Queen's University) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Readings in Medieval Civilizations and Cultures (Book 14)
  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: University of Toronto Press, Higher Education Division;

    Readings in Medieval Civilizations and Cultures: XIV

    edition (April 15, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1442601477
  • ISBN-13: 978-1442601475
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.4 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,600,889 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Viking history is not a single continuous story; rather it is a set
of stories very well represented in this READER. One might add this
book helps us understand Viking history in a way superlative to many other attempts. It pictures the restless spirit of the Vikings! Their stories are informative, exciting and often provocative.

The editors are Angus Somerville, a professor who maintains scholarly interests in Medieval history and R. Andrew McDonald,
an accomplished historian of Medieval England, Scotland and the
Isle of Man. The sources used from the British Isles and the
European Continent make this particular book highly relevant to
a better knowledge and appreciation of this fascinating part of
European history.

Dag Stomberg
St. Andrews, Scotland
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This collection covers various aspects of Scandinavian life, culture, politics, and belief during the Viking age. It is divided by topic, with chapters on:

1. The Scandinavian Homelands
2. Scandinavian Society
3. A Glimpse of Ninth-Century Scandinavia
4. Early Religion and Belief
5. Women in the Viking Age
6. Viking Warriors and Their Weapons
7. Fjord-Serpents: Viking Ships
8. "Sudden and Unforeseen Attacks of Northmen"
9. "The Heathens Stayed": from Raiding to Settlement
10. Austrveg: The Viking Road to the East
11. Into the Western Ocean, the Faeroes, Iceland, Greenland, and Vinland
12. Viking Life and Death
13. From Odin to Christ
14. State-Building at Home and Abroad
15. The End of the Viking Age

These chapters contain selections from the medieval literature pertaining to the respective topics. The selections include excerpts from Icelandic sagas (early historical fiction), roughly contemporary histories, and poetry. Most of the selections are short, on the order of two to ten pages.

For the sagas in particular, the excerpts -- from what are often long, and (to the modern ear) somewhat disjoint stories with huge casts of characters -- have been carefully selected to illustrate facets of Viking life. This is a good introduction to medieval Icelandic literature for readers not ready to dive into the full individual sagas.

Translations are good, readable modern English, with enough notes to give the reader some context.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
For class, it has a lot of background information. Has an all encompassing view of the vikings, something not many history books have.
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