A history of Britain in the violent and unruly era between the first Scandinavian raids in 789 and the final expulsion of the Vikings from York in 954.
In 865, a great Viking army landed in East Anglia, precipitating a series of wars that would last until the middle of the following century. It was in this time of crisis that the modern kingdoms of Britain were born. In their responses to the Viking threat, these kingdoms forged their identities as hybrid cultures: vibrant and entrepreneurial peoples adapting to instability and opportunity.
Traditionally, Alfred the Great is cast as the central player in the story of Viking Age Britain. But Max Adams, while stressing the genius of Alfred as war leader, law-giver, and forger of the English nation, has a more nuanced narrative approach to this conventional version of history. The Britain encountered by the Scandinavians of the ninth and tenth centuries was one of regional diversity and self-conscious cultural identities, depicted in glorious narrative fashion in The Viking Wars.
Adams (In the Land of Giants) uses primary sources, the work of other scholars, and archaeological findings to present this rich history of ninth- and 10th-century Britain. King lfred, his daughter elfl d, and his son Eadweard are at the heart of this volume; Adams begins with the arrival in Britain of minor Viking raiding parties and then the mycel here, the Great Host of Danish and Norse warriors of 865 that kicked off lengthy Scandinavian rule over portions of the British Isles. He traces the wars and other exchanges between the Scandinavian invaders and the various communities of Britain during the first Viking Age. And he ends not with a final battle, but by imagining the travels of a trader through a much-changed Britain in the 960s, now with bustling mercantile centers where 200 years before there were hardly villages. Adams is careful to discuss the reliability of his sources, when historians disagree, and which elements are conjecture. This work is produced with a British audience in mind, so there are a few British phrases that will be unfamiliar to American readers ("not worth the candle," for instance) and numerous geographic references that go beyond what appears on the general map provided. Still, the immense amount of detail is well worth the effort for anyone interested in early medieval history.
Customer ReviewsSee All
An excellent history, but....
A lot of interesting material not just about the Vikings and their wars with the various Anglo-Saxon, British, and more northern kingdoms, but on the economics and geography of Britain in the seventh through tenth centuries CE.
And all terribly marred by a raiding fleet’s worth of typos, bad enough when a familiar word is mangled, but infuriating when a Saxon name is the victim. Rather than starting with a digital edition of the manuscript, evidently the product of the unproofread OCR using a poor software product. Sham3 on the publisher.