Book: The Age of the Vikings

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The Age of the Vikings

Anders Winroth, the Forst Family Professor of History

(Princeton University Press)

The conventional image of the Vikings, the author contends, is distorted by medieval and modern myth. While they pillaged, looted, and enslaved,  they also settled peacefully and developed a vast trading network. They sailed far from their homelands not only to raid, but also to explore. Despite their fearsome reputation, the Vikings didn’t wear horned helmets, and even the infamous berserkers were far from invincible.

By dismantling these myths, “The Age of the Vikings” allows the full story of this period in medieval history to be told. By exploring every major facet of this age, Anders Winroth depicts the innovation and daring of the Vikings without glossing over their destructive heritage.

Winroth not only explains the Viking attacks, but also looks at Viking endeavors in commerce, politics, discovery, and colonization, and reveals how Viking arts, literature, and religious thought evolved in ways unequaled in the rest of Europe. He shows how the Vikings seized on the opportunities made possible by the invention of the longship, using it to venture to Europe for plunder, to open new trade routes, and to settle in lands as distant as Russia, Greenland, and the Byzantine Empire. Challenging the conventional image of the Vikings, Winroth argues that Viking chieftains were no more violent than men like Charlemagne, who committed atrocities on a far greater scale than the northern raiders.

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