Viking Migration Ages Bibliography
copyright 1997 by Historical Novelists
"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
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 ***
Can act as a pick-list for Norse and Normans. T3
Kings of Norway
- A nice cook-down of the Heimskringla
for those not ready to deal with Medieval Norse chronologies.
- 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
"Gotland, Sweden's Treasure Island"
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
Library of Nations, Time-Life Books, Alexandria, VA, 1987; 160
pg, index, bibliography
Less information than the average encyclopedia article, and no
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.
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
"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.;
- 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!
- 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
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.
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
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
"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.]
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
Handbook in Sexuality. ed. Vern Bullough. New York: Garland Press.
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.
"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.]
- 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.
- 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
Scandinavian Studies 62 (1990): 141-162
[An excellent discussion of the role of the concubine in Old
- 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
The Impact of the Scandinavian Invasions
on the Celtic-Speaking Peoples, c. 800-1000 AD <sic>
Olsen, Olaf, and O. Crumlin-Pedersen
Five Viking Ships from Roskilde Fjord
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.
B. T. Batsford Ltd/Historic Scotland, 1993; 143 pg, index, glossary,
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.
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
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
"Women in Gesta Danorum."
Saxo Grammaticus: A Medieval Author Between Norse and Latin Culture.
ed. Karsten Friis-Jensen; Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press.
[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.
To the Central
Migration Ages Bibliography
To the Late
Antiquity and Migration Ages Sources
Essay on Vikings and Women
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