Viking Migration Ages Bibliography


copyright 1997 by Historical Novelists Center


"In the past, the study of the Viking Age was based chiefly on written evidence. Since the early twentieth century, however, extensive studies have shown that many of the exciting stories about the Viking Age are more like 'historical novels' than accurate accounts; they were composed a long time after the events they describe, perhaps with the deliberate intention of glorifying a particular family in order to legitimize its rights to land, or to a kingdom, or to endorse a certain policy."

-- Else Roesdahl, The Vikings

Nor is Roesdahl the only authority to point this out. In general, anything from 1000 to 1200 or 1300 is shaky; anything between 1300 and 1900 is fiction. From 1900 to 1970 or 1980 it is more or less suspect. Unless it is a translation of sagas or chronicles, your reading is least wasted on things published after the Seventies boom in Viking archaeology. However, be wary: many current pop books are largely based on historians of the Sixties, and many are basing themselves and their theories entirely on antique written sources which they treat as irrefutable canon.

In keeping with our policy of 30K or less, we have divided our Migration Ages bibliography. These are the works dealing exclusively with the Vikings and Scandinavia. However, back in the central bibliography, there are many books that deal in part with the Norse abroad: books on Byzantium that talk about the Varangian Guard, those on England that discuss not only the raids, but the fact that the Danelaw was larger than the English holdings, or those on Ireland that deal with the Viking settlements there, and so on.

Adigard des Gautries, Jean

Les noms de personnes scandinaves en Normandie de 911 a 1066 ***
Lund, 1954
Can act as a pick-list for Norse and Normans. T3

Carlyle, Thomas

Early Kings of Norway ****
A nice cook-down of the Heimskringla for those not ready to deal with Medieval Norse chronologies. T1

Casson, Lionel

Ships and Seafaring in Ancient Times ****
University of Texas Press; 1994; Paperback, 1st ed., 160pp.
Covers the development of early boats into ships, including Viking vessels. Strong on evidence of the spade and the new work with full-size replicas. T2

Cerruti, James

"Gotland, Sweden's Treasure Island" YY
National Geographic Magazine, August 1973, pg 268-288
Some interesting details crop up here, about "portage beer" and Viking sports. T3

Clover, Carol J

"Maiden Warriors and Other Sons" ***
Journal of English and Germanic Philology (JEGP), 85 (1986):35-49.
[This is an excellent article examining the theme of the Viking warrior woman. Clover has determined by examination of the laws, particularly the Baugatal section of Gragas, the sagas and Saxo Grammaticus's depictions of women warriors, as well as ethnological comparisons, that the woman warrior was a rare and specialized role. The only case in which a woman was allowed to take up arms was if (1) she was never married, (2) she had no living male relatives in the degrees listed in Baugatal who would have received weregild for the death of a family member, and (3) a crime had been perpetrated against her family that required vengeance by the social code of the day, often the murder of her last male relative. This role was temporary, but for its duration conferred the social role on the warrior woman as "son". Excellent and insightful essay.]
Freyadisa notes: this is Medieval, Icelandic, Christian law. This does not invalidate female warriorhood at will in earlier, Mainland and pagan times. In fact, it helps prove it existed, since women outside these narrow parameters had to be forbidden arms. It is similar to the several Irish attempts to outlaw woman warriors after Christianization. In these situations, women who wish to be warriors just break the law.

"Regardless of Sex: Men, Women, and Power in Early Northern Europe" ****
Studying Medieval Women, ed. Nancy F. Partner. Cambridge: Medieval Academy of America. 1993. pp. 61-85.

"The Politics of Scarcity: Notes on the Sex Ratio in Early Scandinavia" *****!
Scandinavian Studies 60 (1988): 147-188
[An interesting and insightful article, hypothesizes that women were extremely scarce in Viking Scandinavia (particularly Iceland) due to several factors, including higher rate of mortality due to childbirth and preferential exposure of female infants. If Clover is correct, her explanation completely reconciles the apparent gap between women's status as reflected in the laws versus women's status as shown in the sagas.]

Cottrell, John, volume editor

Scandinavia X
Library of Nations, Time-Life Books, Alexandria, VA, 1987; 160 pg, index, bibliography
Less information than the average encyclopedia article, and no atmosphere.
Time-Life Books used to at least provide good pictures in their books. The best here are pedestrian; some, like the skier on pg 92, are muddy with non-artistic shadows. Most are grey, dull, and uninformative. For Vikings, only the same pictures as in Roesdahl of the Oseberg ship. Question all text accuracy: one caption says Swedish police carry ".765-calibre Walter <sic> revolvers." That would be a bore over 3/4 inch across! We believe that should be 7.65 MILLIMETRE Walther, which is only .32-calibre. Do you trust editors who can let that big an error pass? The computer maps are fuzzy, and contain minimal information, besides making the area look like islands unconnected to Europe.

Crockett, Candace

Card Weaving ****
Find out how the weaving tablets found threaded in the Oseberg ship-burial were used. A deceptively simple skill, but patterns beyond the most basic require intricate mental manipulation through three dimensions and time in order to plan the rotation of the cards. T3

Damsholt, Nann

"The Role of Icelandic Women in the Sagas and the Production of Homespun Cloth" ***
Scandinavian Journal of History. 9 (1984): 75-90
[An insightful discussion of the implications of the fact that the gross national product of Viking Age Iceland was homespun, a cottage industry managed entirely by women, and how this affected the status of these women.]

Ellis, H. R.

Viking & Norse Mythology ***
Barnes & Noble, NY
The usual tales. T2

Gardiner, Robert (Editor)

The Earliest Ships: The Evolution of Boats into Ships ****
Naval Institute Press; 1996; Hardcover, 143pp.; index, glossary
The temporally earliest volume of Conway's History of the Ship. Like the others, picture-rich, but a collection of articles by different hands sometimes leaves holes. It also has some things others don't. Covers the ancient Mediterranean, the early Central European, early NW European, Norse, and "Oriental" (Arabic and Chinese) traditions. Especially enjoy "Problems of Reconstruction and the Estimation of Performance." Note that everything is covered in less than 130 pages. T1

Graham-Campbell, James, ed.

The Cultural Atlas of the Viking World *****!
Facts on File
Uses more contributors than most, but the usual excellent production from the Cultural Atlas series: maps, history, mores, culture, dress, technology. Maps especially useful for these wanderers! T1

Robert Hardy

Longbow: a Social and Military History ***
1976, 1986, 1990, 1992 rev & enlarged Bois d'Arc Press, no locale, probably London.
Covers viking archery as a probable source of the English tradition of extreme shooting. T2

Harrison, Mark

Viking Hersir 793-1066 AD <sic> ***
Osprey Military, Reed Consumer Books, Ltd, London, etc., 1993; #3 Warrior Series; 65 pg, Glossary, Further Reading, no index; illustrated by Gerry Embleton
Basically a good book, but too much space is wasted on big line illos of Petersen's shape classifications of weapons without any text given to why we should care -- of what importance is it? Spotty text is a series of short articles -- weapons, costume, tactics -- and little deals with the supposed thesis, the development of the independent hersir into a housecarl. Still lots of information. T3

Heath, Ian

The Vikings ****
Osprey Military, Reed Consumer Books, Ltd, London, etc., 1985; #3 Elite Series; 64 pg, Further Reading, no index; illustrated by Angus McBride
If you're doing Vikings, this is the best illustrated basis for their weapons, ships, and maneuvres, as well as their oft-ignored appreciation of fine archery. No page without a photo. The paintings by McBride are vivid and accurate for the time, including the one of women inside a house. T2

Holand, Hjalmar

Norse Discoveries and Explorations in North America, 982-1362 ****
Dover Publications, Inc., NY
Good basic book on the subject, without getting silly about Phoenicians being the Anasazi as so many "pre-Columbian Europeans in America" books do. T2

Jacobsen, Grethe

"The Position of Women in Scandinavia During the Viking Period." ****
MA Thesis, University of Wisconsin, 1978
[Presents a comprehensive look at Viking women as reflected in law and literature, with separate discussions of conditions in Iceland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden. An excellent source, and surprisingly, quite readable.]

Jesch, Judith

Women in the Viking Age ****
Boydell, Woodbridge, CN; 1991
[Jesch's book was the first English language book on women in the Viking Age. She gives an introduction to the scholarship up to 1991 dealing with women of the period. While the work is not in-depth, it is extremely useful as a place to begin learning about this topic, and furthermore, Jesch paves the way here for others to follow in her footsteps. Excellent book.]

Jochens, Jenny M.

"Consent in Marriage: Old Norse Law, Life, and Literature."
Scandinavian Studies 58 (1986): 142-176

"Gender and Drinking in the World of the Icelandic Sagas,"
A Special Brew: Essays in Honor of Kristof Glamann. Odense: Odense Univ. Press. 1993. pp. 155-181

"The Illicit Love Visit: An Archaeology of Old Norse Sexuality,"
JHS 1 (1991): 357-392.

"Men, Women, and Beasts: Old Norse Sexuality."
Handbook in Sexuality. ed. Vern Bullough. New York: Garland Press. 1995

Old Norse Images of Women
Philadelphia. University of Philadelphia Press. 1996

"Old Norse Magic and Gender: Thattr Thorvalds ens Vidforla,"
Scandinavian Studies 63 (1991): 305-317

"Vikings Westward to Vinland: Problems of Women and Sexuality."
Cold Counsel: the Women of Old Norse Literature and Myth. ed. Karen Swenson and Saray May Anderson. New York: Garland Press. 1995

"Voluspa: Matrix of Norse Womanhood,"
Journal of English and Germanic Philology 88 (1989): 344-362

Women in Old Norse Society *****!
Cornell University Press, Ithaca NY; 1995
[A fascinating wealth of detail of the lives of women in Viking Age Iceland and Norway, including work, sexual behavior, marriage customs, reproductive practices, familial relations, leisure activities, religious practices, and legal matters relating to women. An outstanding book.]

Jones, Gwyn

The Vikings (A History of the Vikings) ****
1968, Oxford, Oxford U Press
Yet another good introduction, if you like them big and meaty. I'd read a couple of skinny things first. T1

Jones, Gwyn

The Norse Atlantic Saga: Being the Norse Voyages of Discovery and Settlement to Iceland, Greenland, and North America ****
1986, Oxford University Press.
This gives you greater detail if you are oriented toward Vinland. T2

Jordan, Robert Paul

"Viking Trail East" ***
National Geographic Magazine, March 1985, pg 268-288
An interesting basic article for the Rus and Varangians, if you haven't decided yet where in the Viking world you are going. Emphasizes the traders and mercenaries. The paintings by Michael A. Hampshire are inspiring. The map has the artistic intelligibility that separates classic NGS work from most of the mechanically accurate but intellectually disorganized maps out there. Photographs of objects may be instructive, but Jim Brandenburg can only shoot landscapes of what's there now. T1

Karras, Ruth M.

"Concubinage and Slavery in the Viking Age,"
Scandinavian Studies 62 (1990): 141-162
[An excellent discussion of the role of the concubine in Old Norse Society.]

Oakeshott, Ewart

The Archaeology of Weapons, Arms and Armor From Prehistory to the Age of Chivalry; ****
New York, Barnes & Noble Books, 1994, illustrated by the author
Uses contemporary manuscript illustrations, analysis of extant weapons, and the author's own illustrations to show how weapons were used. Yes, this is also in the main bibliography, but his viking chapter is pretty interesting, and you shouldn't think he skips them. T2

O'Cuiv, B.

The Impact of the Scandinavian Invasions on the Celtic-Speaking Peoples, c. 800-1000 AD <sic>
Dublin, 1962

Olsen, Olaf, and O. Crumlin-Pedersen

Five Viking Ships from Roskilde Fjord ****
Copenhagen, 1978
Sometimes a bit dry and heavy-going for the layman, this is the complete report on the underwater archaeological excavation of surviving parts of sunken ships. T2-3

Page, R. I.

Chronicles of the Vikings ****
Barnes & Noble, NY
The Vikings get to speak for themselves, and about themselves, in inscriptions and poetry. Also outside observers collected. T2

Ritchie, Anna

Viking Scotland ***
B. T. Batsford Ltd/Historic Scotland, 1993; 143 pg, index, glossary, bibliography
A lot of Scotland was held by the Norse. The Western Isles spoke Norn, a Norse dialect, until the 18th century. Many "Scottish" words like bairn or spae-wife or snae for snow are directly from Norse. A strongly pictorial book, it has a great deal to show about the Norse free farm family throughout the Viking world. T2

Roesdahl, Else

The Vikings *****!
Penguin Books, 1987; 323 pg, index, bibliography; translated by Susan Margeson and Kirsten Williams
If you read no other book on the Norse, read this. It covers everything, from food and interior design to horse tack and poetic metres. Wonderfully fair about how little can be known, and how carefully sources must be judged. Clear maps, if not fancy. Photos include a properly reconstructed belly-walled house. Many good site plans. T2

Salmonson, Jessica Amanda

The Encyclopedia of Amazons: Women Warriors from Antiquity to the Modern Era *****!
Paragon House, NY, 1991; 290 pg, no index, bibliograph
Woman vikings, Celtic warrior queens, women leading barbarian invasions -- there's a lot of entries for this period. T2

Sawyer, P. H.

Kings and Vikings; Scandinavia and Europe 700-1100 AD <sic> ****
Barnes & Noble, 1994; 182 pg, index, bibliography
This book is injured by a chronologically inverted approach, starting in the 12th century, then jumping back. The author's purpose is to show how late sources distorted history to suit their current attitudes (like lots of present historians and historical novelists!), but unless you already know the history of the era, it's confusing. So read in your second or third tier of research. Some of the detail of how archeaologists determine things is fascinating, like reading coroner's reports. Simple maps, often without enough detail to orient the unfamiliar. T2

Saxo Grammaticus

Historia Danica or Gesta Danorum (History of the Danes) ****
A Danish monk, born about 1150, dying perhaps by 1220. The 16 books begin with Germanic legend and become reliably annalistic in the latter half, continuing until 1186. Gives a native's view of the period, especially in what he thought worth reporting or recording. Sawyer feels he is not reliable for the Viking period (700-1100). T2

Strand, Birgit

"Women in Gesta Danorum." ****
Saxo Grammaticus: A Medieval Author Between Norse and Latin Culture. ed. Karsten Friis-Jensen; Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press. 1981. 135-167.
[A comparison of parallel portrayals of women in Saxo's Gesta Danorum and those in the works of Snorri Sturluson. Contains a good discussion of the perception of women by Christian authors of widely differing backgrounds: really points up the differences between medieval Scandinavia and the rest of Europe.]


Discovering Norway ***

Reader's Digest; also available from Traveloguer as The Wonders of Norway; VHS; 56 minutes
Includes the Viking ships in Oslo, (Victorian) country rides, a steamer to the Lofotens, isolated farmsteads, Trondheim, the Lapps in the far north. Remember how new and modern "centuries-old buildings" are, built far forward of this period, and pay attention to the wilder parts of the countryside. T3


The Viking Answer Lady ****
Really good essays with reference to books by an SCA specialist. Especially noteworthy for the latest on the reconstruction of Viking female garb -- forget those fore and aft panels and simple bandannas over the hair -- and a superb work on betrothal, marriage, weddings, and divorce.

Viking Home Page *****!
Lars Jansson's page was the first on vikings (living in Sweden gives him a hair of advantage) and is still one of the best. Pictures and information as well as links.

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