- Paperback: 360 pages
- Publisher: Dunedin Academic Press Ltd. (October 9, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1906716064
- ISBN-13: 978-1906716066
- Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.5 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #890,817 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Viking Kings of Britain and Ireland: The Dynasty of ÃÂvarr to AD 1014
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"[Downham] gives us the history of the dynasty from contemporary and near contemporary sources and brings to bear the fruits of thirty years intense scholarship that has emerged since Smyth wrote, a period in which the study of Early Insular History has been revolutionised. In addition to the blow by blow account of the dynasty's deeds, which forms the bulk of the narrative, Downham has also appended a prosopography of 121 Scandinavian leaders active in the Insular World in the period, citing all the primary sources which mention each. This appendix will doubtless be a godsend to scholar and student alike." Early Medieval Europe
About the Author
Dr Clare Downham is a lecturer in Celtic in the School of Language and Literature of the University of Aberdeen. She worked previously at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies.
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Top Customer Reviews
The author, who clearly knows her subject, has a fascinating and little-known story of alliances, treasons, feuds and wars to tell. Many interesting features come to light, such as the fact that Vikings were frequently allied with local powers against others, with the battle of Clontarf being one example among many since Vikings fought both for and against Brian Boru. Another interesting feature is that Ivarr's dynasty, whose importance is mostly ignored, finally lost out against Alfred and his successors but also against the Irish kinds, and this was at least partly because Ivarr's descendants weakened themselves by fighting against each other.
Another remarkable feature of this book is to show to what extent these "Vikings" (for want of a better term, as the author explains at length) had an eye for choosing strategic sites and successfully attacking their targets. A related feature is to illustrate to what extent their attacks were damageable and can close to overwhelming Alba, Wessex and the Irish kingdoms.
There are however some problems with this book. First, it is difficult to read, largely because it is not written for a general audience. For instance, there are long discussions in which the author rebuts the views held by some of her colleagues, without necessarily explaining in detail what these views might be.
Also, the book's structure, with a first section made into a historical overview and outline and subsequent sections detailing the activities of Ivarr and his descendants in each region where they were active, makes for a lot of redundancies and repetitions that a reader may find tedious at times. Also tedious are the sometimes overlong list of raids, fights and battles that are mentioned one after the other in long lists and sometimes hardly commented upon because little else is known about them than their name and the fact that these events happened.
Finally, the author's tendency to reject almost systemically all non-contemporary sources as "legendary" and therefore untrustworthy (the 12th and 13th sagas in particular) severely limits the source material that can be used, even if archaeology may help to some extent. One consequence, to some extent, is that the author is obliged to speculate and assume a lot.
To sum up, the topic covered and the contents of this book are fascinating and of high quality, as least as far as I know. However, getting to grips with it is a bit of a challenge. This is a pity because, from a general reader's perspective, the book's rating suffers from its relative lack of accessibility (four stars).