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The Viking Age - between 750 and 1050 - saw an unprecedented expansion of the Scandinavian peoples. As traders and raiders, explorers and colonists, they reshaped the world between eastern North America and the Asian steppe. For a millennium, though, their history has largely been filtered through the writings of their victims. Based on the latest archaeological and textua The Viking Age - between 750 and 1050 - saw an unprecedented expansion of the Scandinavian peoples. As traders and raiders, explorers and colonists, they reshaped the world between eastern North America and the Asian steppe. For a millennium, though, their history has largely been filtered through the writings of their victims. Based on the latest archaeological and textual evidence, Children of Ash and Elm tells the story of the Vikings on their own terms: their politics, their cosmology, their art and culture. From Björn Ironside, who led an expedition to sack Rome, to Gudrid Thorbjarnardóttir, the most travelled woman in the world, Price shows us the real Vikings, not the caricatures they have become in popular culture and history.


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The Viking Age - between 750 and 1050 - saw an unprecedented expansion of the Scandinavian peoples. As traders and raiders, explorers and colonists, they reshaped the world between eastern North America and the Asian steppe. For a millennium, though, their history has largely been filtered through the writings of their victims. Based on the latest archaeological and textua The Viking Age - between 750 and 1050 - saw an unprecedented expansion of the Scandinavian peoples. As traders and raiders, explorers and colonists, they reshaped the world between eastern North America and the Asian steppe. For a millennium, though, their history has largely been filtered through the writings of their victims. Based on the latest archaeological and textual evidence, Children of Ash and Elm tells the story of the Vikings on their own terms: their politics, their cosmology, their art and culture. From Björn Ironside, who led an expedition to sack Rome, to Gudrid Thorbjarnardóttir, the most travelled woman in the world, Price shows us the real Vikings, not the caricatures they have become in popular culture and history.

30 review for The Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings

  1. 4 out of 5

    Viktoria

    Neil Price is a Distinguished Professor of Archaeology at the University of Uppsala and his other books include “The Archaeology of Shamanism” (which has been on my to-read list for a couple of years now) and “The Viking Way: Magic and Mind in Late Iron Age Scandinavia”, which I found about shortly before I started reading “Childrens of Ash and Elm”, and sounds like a must-have title too. “Children of Ash and Elm” is separated into three parts. The first one is dealing with the years preceding th Neil Price is a Distinguished Professor of Archaeology at the University of Uppsala and his other books include “The Archaeology of Shamanism” (which has been on my to-read list for a couple of years now) and “The Viking Way: Magic and Mind in Late Iron Age Scandinavia”, which I found about shortly before I started reading “Childrens of Ash and Elm”, and sounds like a must-have title too. “Children of Ash and Elm” is separated into three parts. The first one is dealing with the years preceding the Viking age (750-1050), the so-called Migration period, full of turbulent events like the fall of the Western Roman Empire, several eruptions of supervolcanoes and etc, and its focus is to show the reader how a pre-Viking-age person in Scandinavia probably viewed the world and his/her place in it. This included a really deep dwell into mythology and religion which I enjoyed enormously. The second part deals with, like Price put it, what brings “Viking” in the Viking age - raids, economy, trade and all aspects of the so-called Viking diaspora. The third, and last, part focuses on the colonies of the Vikings and their lasting influence over Europe, Asia and even North America. Neil Price has written a really important book, not only because of his approach to these peoples he writes about, and his focus on their worldview and the underlying causes of their cultural and economical development (and not exclusively on their raids and wars), but especially because he doesn't separate the theatre of action into Western and Eastern (as most authors do), thus showing that it was the same group of people that laid the foundations of Russia, and populated Iceland and Greenland. The author never lost his professionalism and not once condemned or praised the actions of a historic peoples, something which is bafflingly rare and it shouldn't be. A fascination with certain people should not lead to romanticization of their acts. Instead he has created a very believable depiction, the Vikings, as Price views them, are cosmopolitical, creative and opportunistic people, who believed in a certain reality of the world that needed blood sacrifices and raids. What is one thing the author is very good at, is asking questions, or creating new interpretations, of archaeological situations and material culture, for example I was really captivated by his idea of funerals as drama, the sacrificed animals, humans, the notable dead and all his/her belongings - all characters or set pieces. I have always been amazed at how much an archaeological situation can tell us, for example, a Vikings burial holds the tales of a saga. Be it a single Buddha statue found in the Helgo treasure or a runic monument left by a woman, who went to travel to Jerusalem, material culture can tell so many stories if we are there to listen. And Price listens. And I thank him for this. Price is also very familiar with the textual sources, as if by heart, and he keeps analyzing them throughout the book, thus introducing much more context for often overlooked aspects of Viking life. His style of writing is really enjoyable, for a book of 600+ pages it never felt dry or boring even for a moment, in fact his sentences were quite poetic at times, and I really appreciate that. As a truly modern skald he has given his work a soul, which is rare for nonfiction, and this ability is what separates him from the rest who had endeavoured such an adventure into the Viking world. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read such an excellent example of a non-fiction history book, it was a pleasure.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bryan Alkire

    Not for me. I was very disappointed with this book. I really made an effort to like it, but just couldn’t in the end. Don’t get me wrong, it’s informative and reasonably well organized and would be good for Biking scholars. But, if you’re a lay reader who doesn’t know all that much about Vikings beyond the generic stereotypes, stay the heck away from this book. First of all, about sixty percent of the book deals with pre Viking culture so arguably it can be said that this book really isn’t about Not for me. I was very disappointed with this book. I really made an effort to like it, but just couldn’t in the end. Don’t get me wrong, it’s informative and reasonably well organized and would be good for Biking scholars. But, if you’re a lay reader who doesn’t know all that much about Vikings beyond the generic stereotypes, stay the heck away from this book. First of all, about sixty percent of the book deals with pre Viking culture so arguably it can be said that this book really isn’t about the Vikings after all. Second, The writing is dry and over-detailed. Every time I started reading this book I nodded off after about five minutes. The sentences, analysis and sheer detail are stultifying . About that analysis, it’s mostly speculation based on objects found and sources that are inherently unreliable for one reason or another. In short, this book read like a textbook for a class about the Vikings rather than the book for the general population it was meant to be if as it was in my library. Can’t recommend unless you are a Viking scholar.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Silvia F.

    What an interesting book! I really had no idea about the socio-cultural impact the Vikings had throughout history and how they've influenced modern society. What a truly timeless and remarkable people. I originally requested this book because I recently finished watching 3 seasons of the hit TV-show “Vikings” and was very intrigued by their culture and way of life and wanted to learn about their history. I was so lucky to stumble upon this ARC. Author Neil Price does an exemplary job in navigati What an interesting book! I really had no idea about the socio-cultural impact the Vikings had throughout history and how they've influenced modern society. What a truly timeless and remarkable people. I originally requested this book because I recently finished watching 3 seasons of the hit TV-show “Vikings” and was very intrigued by their culture and way of life and wanted to learn about their history. I was so lucky to stumble upon this ARC. Author Neil Price does an exemplary job in navigating the ways of the Vikings, their journeys and at times brutal conquests. He is able to do this in a way that is thought-provoking (tying them to modern culture) and engaging. He is so informative and descriptive that you can feel his hard work and passion on every single page. I can't imagine the amount of hard work and research that went into writing this book. He is thorough and his research is well supported. Although the Vikings are often described as “brutal” and “savage”, Price lets us see them for who they truly were- a people trying to survive, modernize and conquer (just like every other people throughout history). Reason for the 4 stars- at times I lost interest and wanted to skip through some sections (but I didn't!!!); however this is simply personal opinion. Highly Recommend! ARC received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Geoffrey

    (Note: I received an advanced reader copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley) Having just finished what is definitely the most thorough history on this topic that I have ever read, period, I look upon author Neil Price’s decision to subtitle Children of Ash and Elm as merely “A History of the Vikings” as a major understatement on his part. The reach of this work is exhaustive, covering everything from the social pressures that led to the first coastal raids to the surprising amount of gender flui (Note: I received an advanced reader copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley) Having just finished what is definitely the most thorough history on this topic that I have ever read, period, I look upon author Neil Price’s decision to subtitle Children of Ash and Elm as merely “A History of the Vikings” as a major understatement on his part. The reach of this work is exhaustive, covering everything from the social pressures that led to the first coastal raids to the surprising amount of gender fluidity that existed in Viking society. Every facet that is tackled is done so using the full combined weight of the existing archaeological and historical record, and as a result, I was able to finish every chapter feeling confident that no stone had been left unturned. Besides being exhaustive, this book is aggressively objective in a manner that I fast grew to appreciate. Price specifically targets all the major stereotypes and misconceptions but does so in a way that neither glorifies nor denigrates. He just focuses on presenting the Viking’s story as has been told to us in the present by the existing historical and archaeological evidence that has been left behind, and it is neither the story of mere crude seagoing brutes nor anyone that should be put upon any pedestal. It’s a story of a specific group that had their very own unique combination of complexities and contradictions, as all peoples do. And frankly, this story as is told by the evidence ends up being vastly more fascinating than any of the one-dimensional symbols that the Vikings have been pigeonholed into over the centuries. Eventually, further research and archaeological finds will further build upon all that Price covers here, eventually making Children of Ash and Elm an incomplete overview. However, I don’t see this book being dethroned as arguably one of the best existing histories on the Vikings anytime in the foreseeable future. Its completeness feels unmatched for the time being.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Chris Kirkley

    (An advance readers copy lacking only an index.) Children of Ash and Elm is a masterful, wide-ranging, deeply informed synthesis of Viking archaeology and history. Boldly imaginative in the best sense, rigorously attentive to what evidence can and can't tell us, this is a remarkable book. The sixty page bibliography will keep me busy for years. In short, read this book. (An advance readers copy lacking only an index.) Children of Ash and Elm is a masterful, wide-ranging, deeply informed synthesis of Viking archaeology and history. Boldly imaginative in the best sense, rigorously attentive to what evidence can and can't tell us, this is a remarkable book. The sixty page bibliography will keep me busy for years. In short, read this book.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Dax

    For those looking for a modern re-telling of the famous Viking sagas, you’re in the wrong place. Famous Viking exploits do come up, but merely to illustrate a point about Viking culture, religion or politics. Price is more interested in helping us understand who the Vikings were as a people. Gender relations, trade, religion and community are the main areas of focus. That’s not to say that Price ignores the raiding and violence that have made the Vikings famous today, quite the contrary. The Vik For those looking for a modern re-telling of the famous Viking sagas, you’re in the wrong place. Famous Viking exploits do come up, but merely to illustrate a point about Viking culture, religion or politics. Price is more interested in helping us understand who the Vikings were as a people. Gender relations, trade, religion and community are the main areas of focus. That’s not to say that Price ignores the raiding and violence that have made the Vikings famous today, quite the contrary. The Vikings were a violent people, and for hundreds of years it was the foundation of their economy. But they were also a much more complex society than how they are widely remembered today. This is a book for those who want to understand more than the sailing and raiding aspect of this culture. Price delves deep, but he never bores the reader with mundane details. I loved it, and now I kinda want to go back and watch the Viking series on History channel to see if they got it right or not. Highly recommended for history nerds.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Ray

    Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings, Neil Price (professor of archeology, Uppsala [means "the high halls," evidence of which can still be seen there. p. 98] University, Sweden: https://www.arkeologi.uu.se/staff/Pre... 46 miles = 74 km north of Stockholm), 2020, 599 pp., ISBN 9780465096989, Library-of-Congress DL65, Dewey 948.022 Maps 1. Eastern Roman Empire, 565 CE at death of Justinian: limited to Greece, Italy, Balkans south of the Danube, western Turkey; none of France, Germany, Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings, Neil Price (professor of archeology, Uppsala [means "the high halls," evidence of which can still be seen there. p. 98] University, Sweden: https://www.arkeologi.uu.se/staff/Pre... 46 miles = 74 km north of Stockholm), 2020, 599 pp., ISBN 9780465096989, Library-of-Congress DL65, Dewey 948.022 Maps 1. Eastern Roman Empire, 565 CE at death of Justinian: limited to Greece, Italy, Balkans south of the Danube, western Turkey; none of France, Germany, or England; only the southernmost part of Spain. p. ix 2. Kingdoms in what is now Norway and Sweden, 500–1350 CE. p. x 3. Sites of first-phase Viking raids, 750–833 CE: most are on Irish coast; English monasteries and ports; French coastal towns. p. xi 4. Sites of Viking raids 834–999 CE: throughout France, Ireland, southern England. p. xii 5. Mediterranean raid 859–862 CE: from Loire mouth, coasting France, Spain, France, Italy, and back: p. xiii 6. Viking diaspora to Russia and Asia: p. xiv 7. Empire of Knut, 1035 CE: Denmark, south Sweden, Norway, England: p. xv 8. Iceland, Greenland, Canada, 870–1000 CE: p. xvi Pronunciation pp. xvii–xviii Þ, þ (thorn) th as in thin Ð, ð (eth) th as in then Æ, æ sounds like eye á pronounced ow é pronounced ay as in yay í pronounced ee as in thee ó pronounced owe ú as the u in sure "with a rolling Scots accent" y sounds like ew meaning yuck ý longer, eww å like oar ä/æ like air ö/ø like err Óðinn OWEthinn Odin Þórr Thor The gods make the first man, Askr, the ash tree, and woman, Embla, the elm, from stumps of driftwood. p. 2. The Old Norse sagas were written in Iceland from the late 1100s through the 1500s. The Viking Age was from around 750 to 1050 CE. pp. 17, 66. The sagas are Icelandic family sagas, tracing family history back to their Scandinavian ancestors; and, legendary sagas, including real events back to the early 400s with Attila the Hun, along with the supernatural. There's an Ektors saga, which is the Iliad translated into Old Norse, focusing on Hector, the doomed prince of Troy. p. 19. Old Norse poetry is older than the prose sagas. The /Prose Edda/, by Snorri Sturluson, circa 1230 CE, is a handbook for poets, and includes lots of poetry. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8... The /Poetic Edda/ is older poems collected in the 1200s. pp. 21, 513. The earliest poems date from the early 1000s, building on more ancient models. The /Poetic Edda/ is /the/ source of Norse mythology. Read Carolyne Larrington's English translation https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6... Read the Poetic Edda! Norse myths, p. 517, 519: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9... https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2... https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2... https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4... https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3... https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1... https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3... https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9... For a modern Icelander, reading the Old Norse of the sagas has about the same level of difficulty as Shakespearean prose for an English speaker. p. 479. "Please, read the sagas." p. 480. All the surviving texts were written by Christians long after the Viking Age. p. 21. [Except: the eyewitness account of Ahmad ibn Fadlan of a Viking boat burial, in 922. It included the human sacrifice of a teenage slave girl, after she was used for sex by all the men. One-third of the dead chief's wealth went to supplying alcohol to keep the men drunk for the 10 days of funeral preparation; one-third for burial clothing; one-third to his heirs. Many Viking-era graves have been found containing a large male skeleton with an apparently teenage female skeleton. pp. 246–253, 260, 436. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3... ] The Christians misunderstood the Viking story-world, and codified their misconceptions into the retrospective pagan orthodoxy they created. p. 208. [There's a Latin history of Norway older than Snorri's. p. 279. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles of the Wessex kings give contemporary accounts of Viking raids by surviving victims, late 700s– , pp. 275, 279–285, 515. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2... The Royal Frankish Annals of Charlemagne's empire record Danish raids. pp. 289–290, 515. The 861-CE Annals of St. Bertin describe a Viking fleet as a coalition of independent bands. pp. 313, 515. Christian missionaries (unsuccessful to Sweden in 829) left contemporary records. p. 290. A Byzantine chronicle describes Viking berserkers. p. 325. One skaldic poem dates from around 900 CE. p. 325.] "There is no fully comprehensible geography of the Norse cosmos." p. 32. [But see Rick Riordan's Magnus Chase books—he does a pretty good job!] At the center was Yggdrasill, /the/ tree, a great ash. In the beginning there had been nothing but the void of Ginnungagap, an infinite emptiness—yet not quite empty, for deep within it lay a sleeping potential, a power and presence inside the absence, waiting to be awakened. [Modern physics knows that empty space is far from empty: virtual processes are going on everywhere at all times: particles and their antiparticles spontaneously popping into and out of existence, moving forward and backward in time.] The first being in creation was the frost giant, Ymir. The first god was Búri, ancestor of the Aesir. Odin and his brothers began to shape the worlds. They kill Ymir, and make Midgard, the Middle Earth that is our world, from his corpse. pp. 33–39. The goddess Freyja was the sort of sexually-independent woman that terrified the Church. pp. 41–42. Days of the week: p. 46. Sunday Moonday Týrsday Wodensday Thorsday Freyrsday Lördag—from the Old Norse for a hot thermal spring: bath night. The Roman Empire sold weapons to Danes, hoping to keep the Germans in check. p. 70. In the years 536 and 539/540, were two or more immense volcanic eruptions. p. 75 The second was Lake Ilopango, El Salvador. There may have been a third in 547. Dust veil curtailed plant growth. Endless winter. Famine, riots, civil unrest. p. 76. Worse in Scandinavia. Mean temperature fell 3.5ºC (6.3ºF). No crops in Norway & Sweden. Worst effects lasted 3 years. Impact lasted 80 years. p. 77. Survivors fought each other for what was left. Justinian plague 541 CE might have reached Scandinavia. Scandinavian population loss 50%. Many settlements abandoned. Snorri's Edda describes Ragnarök: "First a winter will come. Great frosts, keen winds. The sun will do no good. There will be three of these winters together and no summer in between." p. 78. The sun blackens, the moon dims, the stars fall into the sea, steam covers the sky. "An axe age, a sword age—shields are riven—a wind age, a wolf age." p. 80. Militarized elites arose in Scandinavia. p. 82. Land in the north was several meters lower 1000 years ago: the land is still springing back from the disappearance of the immense weight of the ice-age icepack. Rivers, lakes, and harbors were deeper in the Viking Age than they are today. p. 83. The largest mead-hall known was 80 meters (260 feet) long, at Borg in the Lofoten Islands of arctic Norway. p. 99. Gems, ivory, and lizard skins from Sri Lanka, India, and Bengal, were imported to Scandinavia, 550–750 CE. p. 102. Scandinavia was the end of the Silk Road. Silk from China has been found in Scandinavian graves. p. 442. A sixth-century bronze Buddha from Afghanistan was brought to Sweden. p. 446. The Viking world rested on slavery. pp. 140, 392. Viking raids were largely to gain slaves, most to sell. p. 141. A poem praising Harald Finehair (c. 850–932), greatest of the pirate sea-kings of Norway, says he gave his warriors gold and slave girls. pp. 145, 301–302, 316–317. Up to 7% of men and up to 37% of women had been malnourished as children, in central Sweden in the Viking Age. p. 159. Unwanted children were thrown into the sea. p. 316. Round trip, Denmark to England, 14 days by Viking longship, weather permitting. A 24-meter (79-foot)-long, 5-meter (16-foot)-wide 32-oar funeral longship, circa 890, in Harald Finehair's reign, was found in 1880. A 30-meter (98-foot)-long warship for an 80-man crew, with a draft of just 1 meter, from the 11th century, was found in Denmark. The largest Viking warship yet found is from the early 11th century, 32 meters (105 feet) long, for a single-watch crew of 80, that could've been doubled for war. Warships with sails from as early as 750 CE have been found. pp. 197–201. In winter, people and their animals used iron crampons on shoes or hooves. The new elites who rose to power in the 5th and 6th centuries claimed descent from Odin, Freyr, and the other gods. pp. 208–210. Remains of a temple at Uppåkra, Sweden, date from the 3rd through 11th centuries CE. pp. 211–213. Circa 550–750 CE, endemic warfare among petty Scandinavian kingdoms. p. 274. Polygyny, concubinage, and perhaps female infanticide left an underclass of young men without inheritance or marriage prospects. pp. 316–317. Circa 750 CE, (pp. 275–) Swedes raid Estonia. Late 700s–800s, Britain, Scotland, Ireland, France, Netherlands swarm with Vikings. Locals build bridges as river blockades. pp. 284, 335–. Beginning in 834, Vikings regularly raided in fleets of hundreds of ships. p. 338. The first raiders of Britain were from southwestern Norway. p. 284. Circa 753, Swedes set up a "Wild East" trading post at Staraya Ladoga, by the mouth of the Volkhov river at Lake Ladoga, 100 miles (160 km) upstream (east) of where 1000 years later would be St. Petersburg. https://www.google.com/maps/place/59%... pp. 296–299 and glossy photo. The currencies were furs, silver, and slaves. p. 298. From here, one could go upriver through Lake Ilmen, up the Lovat River, then portage to the Dniepr, down to the Black Sea and Constantinople. pp. 366, 425, 428. But that's a long portage, from around what's now Velikiye Luki to Smolensk, 238 km (148 miles). https://www.google.com/maps/dir/Velik... By the 8th century, Constantinople had over 500,000 population. p. 367. In the 9th century, Baghdad had up to 900,000 people. p. 439. A runestone in Sweden commemorates a son who died in Uzbekistan. p. 440. Swedes who traded via the river routes were known in Constantinople as Rus, by 839 CE. p. 368. The name may have come from Roslagen, Sweden. p. 369. Rus also plied the Don and Volga rivers toward the Islamic, Khazar, Magyar, and Bulgar worlds. pp. 424–425, 438. By the 10th century, the Russian state begins to form, centered on Kiev and Novgorod. p. 431, 437 Pirate "sea-kings" with their armies arise in southwest Norway in the 8th century. pp. 299–. Some of the agricultural-elite Norwegians settled Iceland, beginning around 870 CE, to escape pirate rule. Harald Finehair (circa 850–932) ruled Norway circa 872–930. pp. 303, 378. The first generation of Iceland settlers cut down the forests that had covered the island. It's been barren and treeless since. p. 476. Iceland was wracked by blood-feuds. Norway reasserted control in the 13th century. p. 478. The act of acquiring silver was as important as the silver. p. 309. Reputation. The main export of Viking-age Scandinavia was violence. p. 314. Every year from 834 through 838, Danes sacked and burned the wealthy Dorestad emporium, on the Rhine in Holland, killing, taking shiploads of slaves. https://www.google.com/maps/place/51%... pp. 340–. Also Utrecht and Antwerp repeatedly, and the Thames. They scourged Ireland, mid-830s to 850. Monasteries, markets, settlements. 840–860, Viking attacks increased, penetrating deep into France, thanks to civil war among Charlemagne's grandsons. 843, Vikings set up a year-round base at the Loire mouth. 845, 120 ships attack Paris. Parisians pay Ragnar lothbrok's followers 7,000 pounds of silver and gold to leave. The first of many payments. Attacks of 100 to 260+ ships in France, Frisia and Brittany in the 850s and 860s. 851, year-round in England. p. 343. Also at mouths of the Seine and Somme. Vikings sack, slaughter, burn towns throughout France. 862, Charles the Bald, Charlemagne's grandson, has fortified bridges erected. This cramps the Vikings' style. p. 345. By 865, only 40 and 50 ships on the Loire and Seine, not hundreds. 865–880, the "great heathen army" goes en masse to England. Starting on the Thames and East Anglia. p. 346. 866, Vikings take York: their stronghold for the next century. p. 347. 871, Vikings attack Wessex. By 874, only Wessex is in English hands. In 876 the Vikings began to settle down in Northumbria: farming. 878, English cede north and east of England to the Vikings. p. 349. 877–886, Vikings again attack France, which was again in civil war over succession to the throne. They're eventually bought off. By 890, France is again politically stable and effectively defending against Vikings. p. 351. In the 800s, Vikings extorted 30,000 pounds of silver from France: one-seventh of the entire coinage of the century. Plus grain, livestock, produce, horses, wine, cider, … for doing nothing. Between 830 and 890, 120 named settlements in France were destroyed. Danish king Harald Bluetooth was baptized circa 965. p. 452. After his overthrow, the Odin cult revived. p. 457. Christianity spread in Norway in the 990s. Christianization of Sweden took until the 1220s. p. 458. Rus kings in Kiev were baptized in the mid-900s. Scandinavians were pilgrimaging to Jerusalem in the 11th century. p. 463. Iceland officially converted to Christianity around 1000 CE. p. 481. Greenland was colonized in the 980s. p. 482. Twenty-five ships left Iceland bound for Greenland: 14 arrived. Greenlanders eventually starved to death after overexploiting the soil, and several bad years. pp. 485–486. The Norse toehold in Newfoundland was repelled by natives. p. 490. Very short quiz: https://www.goodreads.com/trivia/work...

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

    Neil Price is a scholar that I've admired for many years and I've frequently returned to works of his over and over for my own research so I was thrilled to receive an ARC of The Children of Ash and Elm. To be frank, this is one of the best books on the Vikings I've ever read and that is for many reasons. One of those reasons is how Neil Price writes. This is not a dense nonfiction where you feel like you're in over your head. He writes in a way that feels conversational and also relates the Vik Neil Price is a scholar that I've admired for many years and I've frequently returned to works of his over and over for my own research so I was thrilled to receive an ARC of The Children of Ash and Elm. To be frank, this is one of the best books on the Vikings I've ever read and that is for many reasons. One of those reasons is how Neil Price writes. This is not a dense nonfiction where you feel like you're in over your head. He writes in a way that feels conversational and also relates the Vikings to the modern-day in extremely interesting ways. Another thing of major value here is that Neil Price does not do what so many scholars before him have done; he doesn't separate things into different arenas. This book makes it clear that the same people conquering Iceland and sailing to North America were also present in Russia at the same. This is of great importance to a beginner in this time period, in my opinion. Neil Price also has the gift of asking "what if" in an incredibly nuanced way. He proposes ideas about different archaeological digs or events in Viking society that seem viable, especially because he backs them up with his own research. On the whole, I just adore this book. It might be my favorite Viking nonfiction of all time (and that's saying something as this is one of my niche time periods). It has some outstanding new research and ideas for those returning to the world of the Vikings and is a great place to begin for those who are new. Thank you to Netgalley and Basic Books for the opportunity to read this ARC.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings by Neil Price, is a fantastic new history of the Vikings - in this book considered to be the peoples of Scandinavia roughly from the collapse of the Roman Empire to the 11th century, when the kingdoms of Denmark, Sweden and Norway emerged. The Vikings are commonly known for their violent raids on mainland Europe and Britain in the early medieval period, but Price shows a much more complex and nuanced side to the Vikings. In depth analysis of thei Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings by Neil Price, is a fantastic new history of the Vikings - in this book considered to be the peoples of Scandinavia roughly from the collapse of the Roman Empire to the 11th century, when the kingdoms of Denmark, Sweden and Norway emerged. The Vikings are commonly known for their violent raids on mainland Europe and Britain in the early medieval period, but Price shows a much more complex and nuanced side to the Vikings. In depth analysis of their cultural, social, mythological/religious and political structures, as well as the economic incentives that influenced their decisions, is examined in depth. Contained in this book are some fascinating examinations not only on the Vikings themselves, but also human thought, history and philosophy. Price shows that the Vikings were not an isolated peoples that screamed out of Scandinavia in 793 to sack an obscure monastery in England, but instead a complex, nuanced people who had close trading and cultural ties to Germany and the Latin world for centuries before. Some fascinating information on Viking mythology is contained within. Far from being all about Odin and Valhalla, the Vikings worshipped a pantheon of Gods who were tightly bound to the Vikings perceptions of their surroundings. Thor and Loki of the Aesir are well known, but a full further family of Gods, the Vanir, exist, as well as numerous planes of existence, and other mythological creatures. This effected the Vikings perceptions of self and place, putting them firmly in a world populated by gnomes and dwarves, elves and Valkyrie. Price examines the Vikings sense of self and finds some fascinating evidence within the archeological record; people seem to have up to five competing self identities, based on status, family, profession, place and ones own luck. This made for a variety of options within Viking society, on how to live and interact with ones communities. Even so, the Viking's buck the tropes set out in recent television series; women had the right to divorce for numerous reasons, and had a lot of agency within the law and estate. Even so, Viking society was very misogynistic. Domestic abuse was common, men had the right to polygamy while women could only have one husband. And the domain of lawmaking and politics seems to have been purely male dominated. From a military standpoint, the average Viking warrior was certainly male, although there are some examples of ambiguous graves where all the trappings of a warrior are found, but the body in the grave is female. Examples of this are present within the Viking sagas as well. The Vikings are of course most famous for their raids and expeditions, which took them from the rivers of central Russia to the shores of Abbasid Caliphate, the coasts of Western Europe, and into the uncharted territories of the North Atlantic, even settling onto the shores of North America. The Vikings were colonizers, raiders and interested in expansion. The reason why is largely unknown, although numerous theories abound, including unrest due to warring polities and the slow centralization of political power on mainland Scandinavia, a lack of eligible brides for the average warrior, environmental impacts from a warming period, and so forth. Any and all of these may provide the answer, although it is certainly not for any one particular reason, as most moments in history seem to attest too. This fascinating part of European history is particularly interesting, and reveals much about human interaction, philosophy and so much more. One thing this book did very well is its offering of a holistic and exploratory view of history. Far from a dogmatic approach to considering history, this book looks at a particular topic with ambiguity, examining multiple points of view, and how they interact with the written and archaeological record. Price is adept at both breathlessly considering historical scenarios, while also pouring cold water on them, leaving them to speculation and hopefully, further examination when more evidence arises. This book was clear, concise and analytical, while also allowing lots of space for fun examinations, easy to digest prose, and moments of fancy from the author. This is a great example of a well rounded history book, being both not too technical, and not too journalistic - instead making a book that really nails the best of both worlds form these two forms of historiography. This was a fascinating and wholly engaging book, and an easy recommendation for those looking for a modern history book on the Vikings focusing on how they lived, and why they engaged with the world as they did.

  10. 5 out of 5

    happy

    Interesting, more than a history, it a look a Norse/Viking society, how it ran, its mythology and worship practices, marriage customs - including polygamy and concubinage, how its economy functioned - slavery, agriculture and raiding, how it was governed etc. The author states that there is not much a written record some much of how society function has to be reconstructed from Archeology - of which he is university professor is Sweden. That leads to my main problem the book - it is written in a v Interesting, more than a history, it a look a Norse/Viking society, how it ran, its mythology and worship practices, marriage customs - including polygamy and concubinage, how its economy functioned - slavery, agriculture and raiding, how it was governed etc. The author states that there is not much a written record some much of how society function has to be reconstructed from Archeology - of which he is university professor is Sweden. That leads to my main problem the book - it is written in a very academic style -esp the first half which explores how society worked. I found the first half less than scintillating :) The second half picks up when the author starts writing about the Viking Dispora and the raiding. The subject matter was enthralling, but the writing style sometimes put me to sleep. A weak 4 stars

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lori L (She Treads Softly)

    Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings by Neil Price is a very highly recommended history and examination of the Viking Age, from 750 to 1050. This is a comprehensive history of the Vikings in which Price looks at who they really were as a people, how they viewed themselves rather than how other cultures defined them. They would not have recognized or identified themselves as "Vikings." In the past many histories that give a history of the Vikings view them through the eyes of another Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings by Neil Price is a very highly recommended history and examination of the Viking Age, from 750 to 1050. This is a comprehensive history of the Vikings in which Price looks at who they really were as a people, how they viewed themselves rather than how other cultures defined them. They would not have recognized or identified themselves as "Vikings." In the past many histories that give a history of the Vikings view them through the eyes of another culture, and usually with the result of placing the contact culture in the positive light and the Vikings in a negative light. Price presents a more equitable picture. He draws on historical records, discoveries made at archaeological digs and burial sites across Europe, and the historical observations made by those who had contact with them at the time. "The emphasis here is very firmly on who the Vikings really were, what made them tick, how they thought and felt. Their dramatic expansion will not be ignored, of course, but its context, its origins, are at the core of what follows. Where better to begin, then, than with the creation itself? The tale of the gods fashioning the first humans from stumps of wood, on the shores of the world ocean, has roots that extend very deeply into Norse mythology. For all the fearful confusion about their identity among those they encountered, in the Vikings’ own minds there was never any doubt at all: they were the children of Ash, the children of Elm." The comprehensive history is divided into three parts. "The first part explores this realm through the Vikings’ sense of self, and of their environment, and begins by delineating the contours of its landscape both on the ground and inside their heads. It explores their unique understandings of personhood, gender, and the place of the individual in the many dimensions of the cosmos. This also involves meeting the other beings with whom the Vikings shared these spaces." "The second part goes back to the early 700s, but follows a different path to seek the major sociopolitical developments and demographic factors that slowly combined to trigger the Viking phenomenon itself. This was the time of the raids and their gradual escalation from isolated attacks to invasions of conquest, in the ever-present context of expanding trade networks. The maritime culture of Scandinavia, the rise of the sea-kings, and the development of uniquely mobile pirate polities are the focus here. The beginnings of the diaspora can be traced in all directions..." "Part three moves the story to the mid-eleventh century, as the Viking phenomenon diversified across the northern world. Its consequences included an urban revolution in the Scandinavian economies and the reorganization of the countryside, paralleled by the consolidation of royal power and the rising influence of a new faith." Viking cities and power bases were established across the world at this time. The idea of separate identities of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden began and they started becoming a part of Christian Europe. I have literally pages of notes from reading Children of Ash and Elm. Certainly I can't share everything, but I would encourage anyone who is interested in an equitable history of the Vikings to read Children of Ash and Elm. I was engrossed in the whole book and all the finds and research Price includes. It is a fascinating and extensive examination of the Vikings, children of the great ash tree Yggdrasill, their culture, explorations and sweeping travels. The final publication will include a 16 page color insert, maps, chapter notes, references, and index. Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of the publisher/author. http://www.shetreadssoftly.com/2020/0...

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    This is a well-written and well-sources book about viking history. It was fascinating and easy to read. It did make me wonder how much less violence and plunder might have happened if the ratios between men and women were more equal in Viking culture? Or if women had more rights?

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sebastian

    Oh, my, do I love me some Vikings. But then again, who doesn’t? So, about once every 20 years, I pause the History Channel shows and put down the Frans Bengtsson romances and grab a good non-fiction book to have a gander at what’s new in their world. One would think that not much can change in a field dealing with literally thousand-year old history, but seeing as how the last book I read on the topic was Johannes Brøndsted’s Vikings, written in 1960 and (despite being quite good) stuffed with al Oh, my, do I love me some Vikings. But then again, who doesn’t? So, about once every 20 years, I pause the History Channel shows and put down the Frans Bengtsson romances and grab a good non-fiction book to have a gander at what’s new in their world. One would think that not much can change in a field dealing with literally thousand-year old history, but seeing as how the last book I read on the topic was Johannes Brøndsted’s Vikings, written in 1960 and (despite being quite good) stuffed with all the stereotypes Price lists for books dealing with the subject, the shift to a more up-to-date perspective was almost like the shift from a kid’s picture book to Brøndsted’s study. The very identity of a “Viking” gets an overhaul and thorough re-examination, starting with the largely artificial divide between the east and west variants, cutting right through and deconstructing “Norse mythology”, social relations, foreign and internal policies, causes and consequences of expansion, similarities and differences with other contemporary regions and peoples, right down to the “map with arrows pointing outwards from Scandinavia” that every Viking book simply must have. Now that I have an updated grasp on the state of Norse studies today, I am really curious to find out what someone like Price would say about the abovementioned Vikings from Bengtsson’s “The Long Ships” that to my (admittedly faulty) memory ring very true to what he has described in this book, not least with the fact that Röde Orm journeyed both west and east, and lived the lives of slave, raider, farmer and merchant, all aspects of Viking life Price examines in detail.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jenia

    Really good history book. It's done in three parts: the culture of the vikings (as far as we can tell - and Price is very clear that a lot of it is conjecture + based on later Christian writings), the viking expansions, and the "fall" of the viking age (aka a transformation into kingdoms). All are interesting, the first two especially. I particularly enjoyed the chapter on gender and sexual norms + their subversions. The audiobook is v good too - I like how the narrator gets a little snarky soun Really good history book. It's done in three parts: the culture of the vikings (as far as we can tell - and Price is very clear that a lot of it is conjecture + based on later Christian writings), the viking expansions, and the "fall" of the viking age (aka a transformation into kingdoms). All are interesting, the first two especially. I particularly enjoyed the chapter on gender and sexual norms + their subversions. The audiobook is v good too - I like how the narrator gets a little snarky sounding when the author is being particularly harsh haha (e.g. towards white supremacists trying to use vikings for their own bullshit).

  15. 5 out of 5

    Malum

    An absolutely fantastic one volume history of the Vikings that has enough info to please any armchair historian. Price uses the most current knowledge that we have on the Vikings but (thankfully) doesn't give a ton of weight to the standard sources the most people get their Viking information from (namely medieval Christian writers whos ideas have always been a bit suspect and very light on actual evidence). An absolutely fantastic one volume history of the Vikings that has enough info to please any armchair historian. Price uses the most current knowledge that we have on the Vikings but (thankfully) doesn't give a ton of weight to the standard sources the most people get their Viking information from (namely medieval Christian writers whos ideas have always been a bit suspect and very light on actual evidence).

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kristjan

    This is a scholastic reference book, so expect it to read accordingly; that said, I found it to be fairly interesting and engrossing as it reinforced what I already knew and added substantially to it. While the scholarship within this book is fairly evident, it remains accessible to the 'layman' with how it is presented to the reader. This means that readers who have more experience with some of the historical disciplines combined by the author may find themselves skimming over significant parts This is a scholastic reference book, so expect it to read accordingly; that said, I found it to be fairly interesting and engrossing as it reinforced what I already knew and added substantially to it. While the scholarship within this book is fairly evident, it remains accessible to the 'layman' with how it is presented to the reader. This means that readers who have more experience with some of the historical disciplines combined by the author may find themselves skimming over significant parts of the book while the author brings the rest of us up to speed. It does drag considerably once it gets into the various Viking raids (I am sure there is something I missed in all that while skimming). Most of the literature about the Vikings has focused What they did and not Why they did it. This book attempts to rectify that oversight. It begins by exploring the actual etymology of the term Viking before trying to identify exactly who the Vikings were and highlight some of the accretions that get us to how to see Vikings today. Rather than defining Vikings by the encounters they had with more than 50 peoples, this book tries to example the similarities within Vikings culture using a few interactions as examples of the whole. But first ... let's talk about what we know and how we know it (and of course the limitations of how we know it). Probably the most significant limitation of any Viking Era research is the scarcity of written material from within its predominately oral culture (nearly all of the written histories are from "foreign contemporaries" who wrote about them). To get an idea of the Viking mind, the other begins with an exploration of Nordic Cosmology/Mythology. As something of a Nordophile, I already knew most of this material and found it to be clearly stated and inline with my expectations after skimming through most of it. The difference here is the author's more pragmatic approach to these myths that tries to identify how these myths are linked aspects of ordinary Viking life instead of a foundation for religious life (which was also inline with my expectations). In other words, he tries ot make distinction between appearance/perception and reality. What I found most helpful here was the author's ability to combine, explain and contrast different aspects of Viking Era beliefs. After this, the author explores what set the Vikings in motion. Citing various environmental and political changes that severely impact the North around the 6th century, we find wide spread evidence of a population under stress; with a reminder that populations under stress usually start migrating elsewhere (in this case, potentially accompanied by former Roman auxiliaries; or perhaps simply Roman armed former allies). [Fimbul]Winter is coming ... and Scandinavian communities needed to reinvent themselves to survive, and what emerged was a very different society. One aspect explored where I learned quite a lot was the intersection of law, magic and sexuality. I am sure some of the material is controversial, but it did explain a number of concepts that have puzzled me before ... such as the whole idea of women's magic (seithr) and why men were not allowed to practice it. Just as important, the author highlights several instances of Viking behavior (typically around funerary practices) for which we may never have a satisfactory explanation. In the end, I came away with a better understanding of the Viking Age. I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review. #ChildrenofAshandElm #NetGalley

  17. 5 out of 5

    Liam Guilar

    If sometimes one sentence characterises a book, I'd choose this one: If you truely believed-in fact 'knew'-that the man living up the valley could turn into a wolf under certain circumstances, what was it like to be his neighbour? What was it like to be married to him? As Price admits, no one can answer that question. But it's worth asking. As an attempt to understand a mentality this book is thought provoking and thorough. Price is open eyed about the brutality of the Viking world, but he's also If sometimes one sentence characterises a book, I'd choose this one: If you truely believed-in fact 'knew'-that the man living up the valley could turn into a wolf under certain circumstances, what was it like to be his neighbour? What was it like to be married to him? As Price admits, no one can answer that question. But it's worth asking. As an attempt to understand a mentality this book is thought provoking and thorough. Price is open eyed about the brutality of the Viking world, but he's also aware of how various and strange it was. It's hard not to like an archeologist who can write so well, who obviously enjoys his subject, and who doesn't dismiss the written sources but actively enjoys them. Here's he's doing all of that, explaining why he's included some of the poetry in the original language: When properly recited in appropriate surroundings, Viking-Age poetry can taste like cold iron on the tongue, its complex rhyme schemes building upon one another like layers of frost-treacherous and beautiful.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Matthias

    The problems, and the promise, of Neil Price's history begins with the subtitle: A History of the Vikings. (This follows the now-standard Catchy Poetic Title: Subtitle that informs you what the book is about format.) "History of the Vikings" isn't quite the right title: Price emphasizes, like everyone else, that the vikingers were a minority occupation in early medieval Scandinavia; but the economics of the publishing industry demand that "Vikings" go on the cover (alongside, inevitably, a longb The problems, and the promise, of Neil Price's history begins with the subtitle: A History of the Vikings. (This follows the now-standard Catchy Poetic Title: Subtitle that informs you what the book is about format.) "History of the Vikings" isn't quite the right title: Price emphasizes, like everyone else, that the vikingers were a minority occupation in early medieval Scandinavia; but the economics of the publishing industry demand that "Vikings" go on the cover (alongside, inevitably, a longboat.) Having acknowledged this, Price grouses that he doesn't quite like alternative terms like "Norse" or the like, which aren't quite accurate either; so he takes as his default the rather awkward construction of "Viking-Age people." The achievement of Children of Ash and Elm, alongside the many digressions into local color by an author obviously in love with them, is that it makes this awkward phrase cash out: Price makes the case that "the Viking Age" is the right construct for understanding this period of Scandinavia as a whole, even if vikings per se were a minority occupation. Price defines this period as ~750-1050, but the starting point is the "worst year in history," 536, when an apocalypse of famine and cold swept over the whole world. Sparsely inhabited Scandinavia, Price claims, experienced a sort of cultural Year 0, with new myths and new warrior elites emerging from the Fimbulwinter. The heart of the book, though, is this 750-1050 period, where raiding and trading expanded to link up with the rest of the Afroeurasian world-system and form a self-propelling dynamic. Price doesn't exactly phrase it this way - because, unlike me, he's not a dreary old cod-Hegelian historical materialist - but the basic story he tells is of a system of accumulation empowered by recent technological changes that propelled itself outwards, had internal material demands that required the reorganization of the rest of the Scandinavian economy to support it, and which produced internal and external pressures that resulted in the sublation of the whole thing. The technological trigger came with the sail, with interacted with the post-Fimbulwinter political elites and some advantageous geography - sea and riverine access to East and West - to enable the raiding complex. Ships were expensive in wood, expensive in men, and above all expensive in wool - Price estimates about thirty person-years to weave the sail and sea-clothes alone. At the same time, the raiders were kidnapping a lot of young women, who in addition to being sexually abused and sometimes resold, could be used as a labor force for all this weaving that had to be done. This also entailed a shift from agriculture to pasturage, which, as in the English enclosure of the commons, entailed a consolidation of estates. The consolidation of estates, availability of slaves, enormous minimum investment required for a viking voyage, and ability to convert stolen or traded luxuries into the existing prestige/gift/hospitality economy all contributed to a massive and seemingly steady consolidation of political and economic power - from local notables, to pirate kings, to actual kings. Gatherings recorded in the annals and archaeology with names like the "Great Heathen Army," and the establishment of permanent military settlements (some evolving into their own permanent states like the Rus') speak to the increasing returns to scale the raiding economy experienced. Although Price doesn't make the causal connection explicit to my memory, my (perhaps again) gloss on his account of the end of the Viking Age is roughly that these increasing returns to scale produced kingdoms on the European model, which adopted Christianity both to become more agreement-capable with surrounding states and because salvation religions tend to be optimized for denser polities. But it must be emphasized that these were gradual processes, not just in quality but kind: Price emphasizes the synthesizing tendencies of, uh, Viking-Age Culture throughout the book. This is alongside the other achievement of the book, in line with the other task of the historian: the delight in particular detail. Take, for instance, one evangelical text: There is a remarkable glimpse of how this worked in practice through a document known as *Heliand*, "The Saviour". Written in Old Saxon during the first half of the ninth century, it is a paraphrase of the gospel for a Germanic audience, tweaked for their sensibilities and pitched almost as a Norse saga though with Biblical heroes. Thus we read of Jesus's birth in Galileeland, his later travels to Jerusalemburg, and how the Lord lives in a great hall in the sky (clearly Valholl). The Lord's Prayer is in 'secret runes', Peter is given command over the gates of Hel (with one L, and so on. Satan's temptation of Christ takes place in a northern wilderness filled with vague forces, 'powerful beings' that seem to live among the trees, and one wonders what this implies of the traditional Northern beliefs that were known to the Christian clerics. By the same token, Jesus's disciples are 'warrior-companions', framed in the language of a warlord's retinue, and the Last Supper is teh 'final mead-hall feast.' Even God is called by Odinnic epithets such as 'Victory-Chieftain' and 'All-Ruler'. Nor can my dreary cod-Hegelian histomat ever, on its own, appreciate the particularities (even if it could explain some of the generalities) of cultural life as he covers it, of the old Norse cosmology's parts of the soul (bodily shape, mind, an ancestral spirit, but also the fascinating hamingja-soul that makes up a person's luck, and can leave them) or its staff-weilding sorceresses and sorcerers, identifiable in burials (in line with the noted syncretism, one sorceress is buried with her magic staff and a number of protective amulets - including a little Christian cross.) The high point of emotional energy for the book, and the low point for its protagonists, is a description of a high-status burial from a contemporary Muslim traveler. The affair - a week-long spectacle that my dreary histomat would flatten into "potlach-style demonstration of prestige through conspicuous wealth destruction" - ends with a scene out of pulp novels, the human sacrifice (and ritual sexual violence against) an adolescent female slave. Price makes no excuses for the slave society he analyzes and has devoted his life to studying, having no hesitation in describing it as, as historians are often encouraged not to, evil. But he's also not hesitant about aspects he admires - its cosmopolitanism, its creativity, its infinite array of human detail. This seems to me to be the more honest approach - it is, after all, how we recognize the societies we ourselves inhabit: despicable, fascinating, violent, creative, and all the rest.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ned Lud

    Finally an account ‘through their eyes’. A truly remarkable achievement.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Vintagebooklvr

    This sounds like the name of a fantasy novel but it is a presentation of the history of the Vikings and the period before them that helps explains their development and "explosion" to many other geographical areas. This is not arranged by chronological order but more by themes or areas of knowledge with overlaps because real life is not as separated as we like to split up for study. It is roughly in chronological order within these areas but there no strict time line or a list of warlords and ki This sounds like the name of a fantasy novel but it is a presentation of the history of the Vikings and the period before them that helps explains their development and "explosion" to many other geographical areas. This is not arranged by chronological order but more by themes or areas of knowledge with overlaps because real life is not as separated as we like to split up for study. It is roughly in chronological order within these areas but there no strict time line or a list of warlords and kings that is gone through. Price also tries to present the Vikings as they saw themselves not through the eyes of biased contemporaries with their own agendas or the lens of present day stereotypes. This is not easily done because there are no real sources by the Vikings themselves at the time, other than runic inscriptions that are memorials or legal documentations of boundaries, etc. Price uses Christian and Arab sources with an eye to their limitations and prejudices and supplements this with recent archaeological findings. Price does not glorify Vikings and reminds the reader of the violence and death caused by raids and the warrior and honor society they lived in. He also underscores the slavery Vikings participated in and the feedback loop involved with their expansion. He particularly explores the sexual violence and rape women slaves were exposed to and endured. Price, also, points out the good points of Viking society, including their curiosity and their acceptance of other cultures which also influenced. There is an interesting but not very extensive section that describes the boats, innovations that made the Vikings so successful in their sea endeavors, the intensive work required by people on land to outfit the boats and people going on "expeditions" and just much their society was invested in time and material resources in the maritime voyages. These was a small point that I had trouble with. Price goes on about how much we don't know because of the lack of Viking sources and what we have is often seen through the eyes of biased eyes but then goes on to discuss on how Vikings believed in free choice, no predestination, but at the same time were strong believers in fate. It's a fine, nuanced interpretation with aspects "true" self. How can such a sophisticated variation be understood by scholars of the present day when he says records with such details do not exist? There are many more modern works in Nordic languages and German about the Vikings than are available to the general English public. So this is a nice addition to that field of work and puts the Vikings in the context of their time and not judging them by present day standard. I appreciated all the archaeological data, not just written sources, to present a well-rounded work.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Anne Secher

    *I received this book free from NetGalley and Perseus Books, Basic Books in exchange for an honest review.* As you can assume from the title, this was one of the easiest 5 stars I've ever given. Given that this is a non-fiction, I won't be explaining world-building or characters. I can otherwise tell you that this book is not lacking on excitement and interesting facts. mazing job at creating a history book that would not be boring but, on the contrary, quite interesting; so much so that I could *I received this book free from NetGalley and Perseus Books, Basic Books in exchange for an honest review.* As you can assume from the title, this was one of the easiest 5 stars I've ever given. Given that this is a non-fiction, I won't be explaining world-building or characters. I can otherwise tell you that this book is not lacking on excitement and interesting facts. mazing job at creating a history book that would not be boring but, on the contrary, quite interesting; so much so that I could not put this down! There was much information that I had not previously found altogether on one book, such as the indication that there were trans and genderfluid people in Viking societies, that they were probably accepted even though gay men were not, that not only did divorce exist, but also that women could file it simply based on the fact that they got tired of the other person, which is something I don't think happened in any other society at the time; especially the ones embedded in Catholicism. The writing style made the reading lighter, so easier. There's kind of a mixed format that includes, aside from the text/narration, fractions of poems and other writings from the times and pictures of items found in research and excavations to support arguments stated on the text. term and historical event is explained, so you're never left wondering what a term means or why something happened a certain way. This book also focuses on clarifying some myths regarding the "Vikings", including the meaning of this word and why it's not correct to call Scandinavians in such a way, which I had no idea about. Finally, instead of being divided in a timeline (a different era per chapter), it is separated on cultural aspects that made this people who they were, which gives you a 360º perspective and a deeper understanding of the aspects that reflect a certain idiosyncrasy. If you're interested in Scandinavian history and mythology and are normally reluctant to read an academic book on the topic, this book is for you! Hope you let me know if you buy the book or if you have read it.

  22. 5 out of 5

    BDW

    A fascinating cross-disciplinary look at the rise of the Vikings. This book tries to understand how the Vikings saw their world and what motivated them to pursue their raiding and conquering. Price draws on archeology, historiography, genetics, economics, and even climate science to develop as thorough a picture as possible of a culture that did not write it's own history or stories. He traces the Vikings rise from a multiyear winter caused by massive volcano eruptions that caused global climate A fascinating cross-disciplinary look at the rise of the Vikings. This book tries to understand how the Vikings saw their world and what motivated them to pursue their raiding and conquering. Price draws on archeology, historiography, genetics, economics, and even climate science to develop as thorough a picture as possible of a culture that did not write it's own history or stories. He traces the Vikings rise from a multiyear winter caused by massive volcano eruptions that caused global climate impacts. He explores the similarities between Viking culture and pirate systems in the 18th century, the rise of sea kings, and the economic impact of raiding and trading on nordic populations. This is a clear-eyed view of what they were and how they saw their world and will realign any fuzzy popularized view you might have of Vikings. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Zandt McCue

    Amazing, but exhausting. Right away I'm going to tell you that this book is for people who love history, cultures, and who have the willingness and drive to learn the truth about Vikings. This is absolutely not the book for someone that thinks a viking is a fat singing guy with horns on his head at the opera, or who get misled with what I'll call the modern media version of Vikings we see in things like Assassins Creed: Valhalla and The Last Kingdom TV Show. The intro gives us Neil's credentials Amazing, but exhausting. Right away I'm going to tell you that this book is for people who love history, cultures, and who have the willingness and drive to learn the truth about Vikings. This is absolutely not the book for someone that thinks a viking is a fat singing guy with horns on his head at the opera, or who get misled with what I'll call the modern media version of Vikings we see in things like Assassins Creed: Valhalla and The Last Kingdom TV Show. The intro gives us Neil's credentials but for those that want to know: "Neil Price is distinguished professor and chair of archaeology at Uppsala University, Sweden. He has been researching, teaching, and writing on the Vikings for nearly thirty-five years" In other words, he is THE expert on all things Viking. What I loved about this is that he constantly dispels our idea of who the vikings were. Sure, parts of their culture as represented today are true to form but the portrayals tend to disregard a lot of who they were and how they acted. He also takes a history is written by the winners approach to telling their story, constantly reminding us that a lot of their own texts are in existent and we developed our viewpoint based on the writings of their rivals and neighbors. I also liked how Neil talked about the Norse Mythology which a lot of us are familiar with but in a way that showed how it truly related to the Vikings themselves. These aren't just stories, they are beliefs. Now, I am going through some personal stuff so although I found this book amazing and fascinating, I also found it really exhausting. I don't know if it's because of my own issues or because the book is extremely heavy with information. I would absolutely recommend this book, but would caution that you have to be really committed to it. I trust Neil with the Vikings the way I trust Zahi Hawass with the Egyptians.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tami

    I must admit, I was not prepared for the level of in-depth research that Neil Price included in this book. He left no stone unturned. Everything from the Viking beginnings, the raids, social and sexual lives, religion, their political structure and more is included in the book. In many ways, they were ahead of their time and more enlightened than we are today. I was pleased to find that what I did know of the Vikings was validated in Price’s work. Included were famous Viking warriors of the past I must admit, I was not prepared for the level of in-depth research that Neil Price included in this book. He left no stone unturned. Everything from the Viking beginnings, the raids, social and sexual lives, religion, their political structure and more is included in the book. In many ways, they were ahead of their time and more enlightened than we are today. I was pleased to find that what I did know of the Vikings was validated in Price’s work. Included were famous Viking warriors of the past that really did exist and made their mark on the world, such as Ragnor Lothbrook and Ivan the boneless. I wish the author had split this book up into two parts. It was quite an undertaking and there was a plethora of information to consider. Readers who are looking for a detailed, comprehensive history of the Vikings will find this a perfect choice. This reads more like a college textbook and at times I found my mind wandering, but at other times, I was fascinated that the the author included so much from archeology and stories that are passed down, whether in written of verbal form. Many thanks to NetGalley and Perseus Books for allowing me to read and review an advance copy and give an honest review.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Shaelene (aGirlWithBookss)

    I love archaeology, ancient cultures, and mythology. I requested this book on a whim thinking it was just going to be a simple book on the Vikings- I should have looked before I left, ie, check the page count. I was also completely unprepared for how in-depth and comprehensive this book was going to be, I would say its more for someone who already has quite a lot of knowledge about the Vikings and their culture, as opposed to me, a complete novice on the Vikings. I spent a week reading this book I love archaeology, ancient cultures, and mythology. I requested this book on a whim thinking it was just going to be a simple book on the Vikings- I should have looked before I left, ie, check the page count. I was also completely unprepared for how in-depth and comprehensive this book was going to be, I would say its more for someone who already has quite a lot of knowledge about the Vikings and their culture, as opposed to me, a complete novice on the Vikings. I spent a week reading this book and managed to get about 30% into it, and I was a little lost. I was enjoying what I was reading and would continue if I had the time for it (I have a lot of books to review this month). I will be purchasing this book as it was super interesting, however, I’ll read some beginner books on the Vikings beforehand to get a better grasp on the subject. Overall, I enjoyed it, I'm quite disappointed in myself that I was not able to give this book the time it deserved. 3 stars, likely would’ve given it a higher rating if I was able to continue. **ARC provided by Perseus Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

  26. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    This is the Viking history I've been wanting for 20 years: told from a personal, lived-in perspective as much as a bird's eye view of structural patterns. Price does a good job of weaving together the fated contours in which people lived during the Viking period with the choices they made, against or along the grain. This is also the most honest portrayal I've read, unflinching in showing the social hierarchy, from sexism to slavery, while still celebrating the art and genius of the same people. This is the Viking history I've been wanting for 20 years: told from a personal, lived-in perspective as much as a bird's eye view of structural patterns. Price does a good job of weaving together the fated contours in which people lived during the Viking period with the choices they made, against or along the grain. This is also the most honest portrayal I've read, unflinching in showing the social hierarchy, from sexism to slavery, while still celebrating the art and genius of the same people.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ieva Gr

    Why I read it: This was a weird one for me. I read some review somewhere that said this is a book about Vikings, from the Viking perspective. So I impulse bought it. And then when it came in the mail I realized it is a big, fat historical book with photos of architectural findings – not something I usually read. Felt kind of guilty for buying it and then not wanting to read. So finally came up with a compromise to listen to the audio version, because that was easier to incorporate in daily tasks Why I read it: This was a weird one for me. I read some review somewhere that said this is a book about Vikings, from the Viking perspective. So I impulse bought it. And then when it came in the mail I realized it is a big, fat historical book with photos of architectural findings – not something I usually read. Felt kind of guilty for buying it and then not wanting to read. So finally came up with a compromise to listen to the audio version, because that was easier to incorporate in daily tasks. What I liked about it: It was a lot easier to read and more interesting than I expected. Though that varied from chapter to chapter, because their content differed greatly. There were chapters on the mythology, religion, burial rites, social life (that I enjoyed) but also on ship building, geopolitical situation etc. (that I allowed myself to skim through). I liked that the author pointed clearly which things are assumptions and hard to verify. While reading the book I’ve also watched few documentaries about Viking life and they were a lot more loose with presenting assumptions as facts (was kind of nice I was able to notice some of it thanks to this book). It helped me to pin down what I admire about the folklore and the way I imagine people used to view the world: ‘The Vikings were not alone but very much shared the world with multitude of ‘Others’ - not just other humans, but other things altogether. The most obvious were the gods <...> and a whole host of other beings, spirits and creatures that have survived under the comforting label of folklore but at the time were very real. <...> Vikings did not believe in these things any more than someone today ‘believes in’ the sea. Instead they knew about them.’ It was very interesting to learn that Vikings saw humans not as dual being of body and soul but as fourfold ones: Hamr was the shell or shape (the body) Hugr combined elements of personality, temperament, character and especially mind. The hugr was who someone really was, the absolute essence of you. Hamingja was the personification of the person’s luck. Fylgja was a separate being that somehow dwelled inside every human. It was always a female spirit, even for a man. It was a guardian, an embodied link to one’s ancestors. It was also interesting, that author approached the topic with a modern mindset. Gender roles and non-binary identities were discussed, because these are the concept in which we think nowadays and it is interesting to compare it with how the Vikings saw the world. Also the idea that a latrine is both a very good and a very bad find for an archaeologist never came to my mind before this book.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Neil Price's The Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings was a bit of a hit-and-miss for me. Some chapters were fascinating, and I flew through them. Most of Part 1, The Making of Midgard, which discussed Viking society, was particularly excellent. I also enjoyed the chapter on Viking expeditions to North America. And having recently read The Bear and the Nightingale, I was excited to see the Rus' make an appearance. I should also affirmatively state that I appreciated Price's repeated Neil Price's The Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings was a bit of a hit-and-miss for me. Some chapters were fascinating, and I flew through them. Most of Part 1, The Making of Midgard, which discussed Viking society, was particularly excellent. I also enjoyed the chapter on Viking expeditions to North America. And having recently read The Bear and the Nightingale, I was excited to see the Rus' make an appearance. I should also affirmatively state that I appreciated Price's repeated cautions against romanticizing the Vikings, and just generally doing his best to avoid giving fodder to readers who would use this work for nefarious means. Frankly, it sucks that we have to worry about Nazis whenever researching and writing about the Vikings. But we do, and I'm glad Price acknowledged that. He also does a good job pushing back on the notion that the Vikings were in any way a "pure" Nordic race, and notes all the ways in which they mixed with and embraced other peoples and cultures. Well done, sir. But back to the book itself. It's mostly great, but there are these long chapters in the middle that dig into the details of Price's specific field -- archaeology -- and everything started to drag for me. Archaeology books are just not for me. (Museums with ancient artifacts? Awesome! Books about academic archaeology? Terrible.) This is the third book I've read this year that dealt heavily with it, and I'm done. (The other two were The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World and 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. Both were admirable, but tedious whenever they delved into archaeological details.) I'm done with graves in all their forms -- burials, cremations, and, most especially, mounds. I'm done with descriptions on how their occupants were murdered. I'm done with spatial description of ancient settlements. I'm done with the constant speculations about finds, followed immediately by cautious caveats about how we can't really know. Mostly, I'm constantly frustrated because I find archaeological conclusions suspect, but also wish there were more of them -- rather like that Woody Allen quip about the restaurant with terrible food and small portions. Now, it's not Neil Price's fault that I find archaeology tedious, but I will gently observe that he's also not the world's best writer. He's not terrible, but the words "mundane" and "mediocre" apply here. In Children of Ash and Elm, he seemed to be trying to balance a dry academic tone and a more conversational, accessible style. I think he just should have chosen one or the other, because merging the two didn't work for me. There were long paragraphs where I spaced out for a bit, reading the words but not really living them. Catching myself doing this, I would shake my head, yawn, and ask whether it was worthwhile going back to re-read ... and it seldom was. Worst of all, Price writes these cringe-worthy, interior monologues that try to get the reader into the head of a Viking. Here's one of them: "Feel like a Frisian meal this evening? Try Radbod's [tee-hee!] tavern by the docks--those Saxon merchants we met last month in Hedeby said it was amazing. And you should taste Ulf's beer next door, he uses heather!" And another, supposedly something a young Viking woman may have thought about a handsome warrior back from raiding with a slave girl-- "And there's that tall one again, good-looking despite the scar, with the gold-hilted blade (which he didn't have last year). This is the third ship he's sailed with, and he's got another stripe on his teeth. Ignore that frightened girl he brought home with him--that's just to be expected, and anyway she can't even speak the language; and he does keep looking at you. But you'll be the judge of where that might lead." Yikes. I could see some readers finding these charming. Or maybe Price has found stuff like this to be effective teaching in a classroom. But they just didn't work for me, and I found them more jarring than immersing. To be fair, Price's editor could have also done a better job. I found a few flat out errors (like when he talks about Vikings in England reaching "as far east as Cornwall") and also some just weird writing, like when he describes fledgling Viking market towns as "aspirational centres of early trickle-down economies," when I think he meant experiments in mercantile trade? I mean, as an American reader who ties "trickle down" economics to Reagan and the (ongoing) conservative revolution of the 1980s, I could not figure out what Price meant here. But I digress. Overall, Children of Ash and Elm was a decent read. It certainly whetted my appetite to read more about the Vikings, and I fully intend to take Price up on his suggestion to go read the Icelandic sagas. But is it actually the "definitive" popular work on the Vikings that I expected? Not really. Long stretches get too bogged down in archaeological detail, and Price also skips over lots of things I would have wanted to learn more about, like the language the Vikings spoke, Old Norse. Which is good news, I guess, for the person out there who wants to write that book.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ange

    Thank you to Netgalley and Perseus Books, Basic Books for an eArc of this book for an honest review. I enjoyed this book so much I preordered a physical copy, which arrived today. I have always enjoyed Viking history, maybe living in the North East of England where their influence is so evident has something to do with that. I found this book informative and insightful. Neil Price includes diversity and inclusion in a thought provoking way. Providing evidence of LGBTQ+ within the Viking culture. Thank you to Netgalley and Perseus Books, Basic Books for an eArc of this book for an honest review. I enjoyed this book so much I preordered a physical copy, which arrived today. I have always enjoyed Viking history, maybe living in the North East of England where their influence is so evident has something to do with that. I found this book informative and insightful. Neil Price includes diversity and inclusion in a thought provoking way. Providing evidence of LGBTQ+ within the Viking culture. The book challenges the stereotypical idea of who they vikings were and delves info how they changed the places where they travelled and settled. I really enjoyed the personal references of the archeological digs and research through Neil Prices career that were interwoven to make create this fascinating book. This book will be delved into for research and pleasure for years to come.

  30. 4 out of 5

    zhixin

    The best parts of the book for me were actually the culture and logistics of the Vikings, rather than the pillaging and killing, and honestly I was so embarrassingly ignorant about Vikings, I’m not sure why I picked up this 600+ page tome. It’s good though — at least I know an ounce more now. Children of Ash and Elm seeks to establish a history of Vikings independent of the accounts of the cultures they pillaged; no easy task, we are told, in a culture dominated by the oral tradition. The task i The best parts of the book for me were actually the culture and logistics of the Vikings, rather than the pillaging and killing, and honestly I was so embarrassingly ignorant about Vikings, I’m not sure why I picked up this 600+ page tome. It’s good though — at least I know an ounce more now. Children of Ash and Elm seeks to establish a history of Vikings independent of the accounts of the cultures they pillaged; no easy task, we are told, in a culture dominated by the oral tradition. The task is further complicated by the fact that the Vikings were not a coherent entity, like we would understand of the Roman empire, but more often decentralised groups of people more akin to pirate ships, each with their own fealty, coalescing at certain points and breaking apart at others. The book is divided into 3 parts of roughly chronological order. The first part, also my favourite part, explores the Vikings’ sense of self in relation to the environment, tracing the Scandinavian experience from the wane of the Western Roman Empire through the 5th up to the 9th century. The second part, from the 8th to the 10th century, is filled with raids, developing in sophistication from isolated attacks to coordinated invasions, and examines the sociopolitical factors which might have contributed to this phenomenon. The third part, from mid 11th century, looks at the consolidation of royal power and the rising influence of Christianity, eventually resulting in a fade of the Viking age into modern Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and even Russia. I found the Viking conception of the world especially moving, for instance their fourfold conception of the self. The hamr, or the shell or shape, is the physical manifestation of a person, analogous to the body, except that they could alter (shapeshift) for the gifted under certain circumstances of time or mood, most commonly into a large predator like the bear or wolf for a man, and a sea creature like the seal for a woman. The hugr is who someone really is, a combination of personality, temperament, character, and mind, and exists independently of the body, like our modern concept of a spirit. Those possessed of the gift could see the hugr of others. The hamingja is the personification of a person’s luck, and is free to leave the body as well, giving rise the phrase that one’s luck has “run out”, literally. Finally, the fylgja is a female spirit residing in all, a guardian and the embodied link to one’s ancestors, moving on at death to continue down the family line, and appearing in dreams with warnings and advice. I found the explanation for the rise of the Viking Age absorbing as well. The Migration Period (5th to 6th centuries) which pre-dates the Viking Age came about after the fall of the Roman Empire, which itself was brought about by destabilising conflicts within and without. The instability naturally led to an uptick in migration, but the start of this period was marked by an unusually drastic event, thought to be at least 2 volcanic eruptions of unprecedented magnitude, resulting in steep decline in human activity. The sun, blocked by the hazy mist of the ejecta and sulphur dioxide, brought about a cold spell that worsened the subsistence conditions the Scandinavians were already living in given their terrain. Scientists believe this left its mark on mythology in the form of the final battle at Ragnarok, the prelude of which is described as the Fimbulwinter (mighty winter). The rebuilding of civilisation after this catastrophic period saw the rise of militarised elites who fought their way to power and enacted new performative spaces for the enactment of this power in the form of hall cultures. Price is positively poetic in describing the feasts that took place amidst flickering fire and shadow in these halls, the simmering tensions between the men from enemy houses barely being held in place by rules of hospitality. Bonds of kinship, in the forms of family and friendship (with an element of loyalty associated with brotherhood), held the Vikings together. Viking marriages were polygynous, with men in power being able to marry several wives and have concubines. Price describes the way the meals would have been conducted, the food eaten and types of kitchenware and utensils used, and then the communal sleeping arrangements, followed by grooming and fashion styles, all in service of a vivid picture of what the Viking life would have looked like. The institution of slavery is the dark enabler of such a lifestyle, and also one of the primary objectives of Viking raids. As for gender, while patriarchy was the norm, homophobia was rampant, and social pressures enforcing gender roles immense, women could take on masculine roles if circumstances dictated, and there are suggestions of queer identities in the sagas and in male-bodied individuals buried in women’s dress and vice versa. Interestingly, while only women could perform sorcery, men could do so too at the cost of essentially renouncing their manhood. Vikings treated their gods as beings to come to terms with and conduct rites for, but certainly not to prioritise; on an everyday basis, people were more concerned about getting along with the invisible population of spirits and nature-beings, all of whom required placation and spiritual bribery. Viking funerals took on a myriad of forms and included both cremations and burials; the most dramatic form, the ship burial, has implanted itself in popular imagination. I’m going to summarise the mission report by an Arab writer, Ahmad ibn Fadlan, about this ritual, because it is brutal. Trigger warning: rape. The report describes 10 days of funeral preparations that also see festivities involving music, sex, and heavy drinking; there is also a female slave who “volunteers” to be killed, is subsequently referred to as the dead man’s bride, assigned servants and given fine clothes and jewellery, and has sex with many of the men in the camp in these 10 days. On the tenth day, the ship is hauled on to the pyre, the dead man is exhumed from his temporary grave, the “bride” goes on to every tent to have sex with each man, a dog is led to the ship and cut in two, horses and cattle are sacrificed, and then the “bride” is lifted by several men to look at a door frame set up in open air, describing visions of the next world and its inhabitants. She then walks on the raised palms of the men she had sex with, sings a leave-taking, drinks two beakers of strong alcohol, resists entering the cabin so has to be forced inside, her screams drowned out by men beating staves on shields for that very purpose, is held down on the bed beside the corpse and further raped by six of his kinsmen, and finally let out of her misery as two of them strangle her with a twisted veil and another stabs her repeatedly between the ribs. The living leave the ship, the pyre is lit by a naked man walking backwards around the vessel with his face averted and his anus covered by his fingers, and after the fire consumes the ship and the ashes cool, a mound is erected over the remains of the pyre. Little is definitively know about the afterlife, but within mythology, the dead go to two destinations in Asgard: Sessrumnir, Freyja’s hall, and Valholl, Odin’s, both of which are reserved for the warrior dead, and echo hall life in Midgard on a grander scale. The other main realm of the dead was Hel, ruled by Loki’s daughter, and while there are negative associations with it, Price argues they could be a result of Christian interpretation. There was an afterlife for the drowned, who are caught in a net by Ran, the sea goddess married to Aegir, lord of the ocean. At Ragnarok, as all the powers gather, the greatest Viking ship ever made — Naglfar, or the Nail Ship, built from the fingernails of everyone who has died and hence is perpetually growing — will rise to the surface with Loki at the helm, the drowned as its crew, and the dead of Hel as its cargo. The next two sections of the book are a lot drier to me as they delve into the actual raids and the political consequences in the lands they pillaged. Decentralised and dense with polities as they were, it was difficult to thread a coherent narrative through them, and honestly it devolved for me into a mess of one kingdom after another. A more politics-minded reader might find this of greater interest than I did. Anyway, the Vikings were active traders before they had the bright idea to acquire what they needed through force rather than the exchange of goods. Internally, the kingdoms of Scandinavia found their ambitions to be larger than their lands could provide for; socially, the gender imbalance in polygyny created an underclass of young men disenfranchised by their bleak marriage prospects, and sought a change in fortune at sea, or at the very least take women by force in sexual slavery during their raids. As the Vikings’ might and ambitions grew, the fleets ballooned in size, numbering hundreds of ships by the 9th century. The Vikings also had an uncanny sense of when their neighbouring kingdoms were internally most fractured and hence unable to put together the military resources needed to defend their lands. When Frankia managed to put their shit together to summon adequate defenses under Charles the Bald in 862, the Vikings headed over to England instead, and since there was no single king of the Vikings, no negotiation could be made. In 9 years, the invading Scandinavian force had effectively destroyed all but one of the English kingdoms, leaving only Wessex. Then it’s Frankia’s turn to have succession issues, so the Vikings headed on back for their spoils, leaving again when the Frankish Empire stabilised. Frankia was so powerless against the invading forces, the protection money they paid to the Vikings equates to about 14 percent of the entire monetary output of the Frankish Empire for a century. They were not the only targets of Scandinavian activity — the Vikings would also leave their mark on Ireland, Scotland, Morocco, Constantinople, Greece, Spain, and even North America, although by this point I was beleaguered with so many names that I might just have pulled out some random anachronistic country’s name out of my arse. I found more fascinating the industries required for the scale of sea warfare that the Vikings engaged in: cloth for the crew and the sails, wood and metal for the boats and weapons. Apparently the total sailcloth requirement for all their sea vessels amounted to the annual production of two million sheep by the early 11th century, and we haven’t even added the wool needed for clothing and bedding. Not to mention the labour that would have gone into making just one warship, powered most definitely by slavery. As power became increasingly concentrated, Christianity, with its tightly regulated ritual calendar governing what people ate and how they behaved, grew in attractiveness to the Scandinavian kings. For many decades people followed both the old and new ways, using the same soapstone mould to cast Christian crosses and Thor’s hammers; gradually, the Scandinavian polities we recognise — Norway, Denmark, and Sweden — emerged with its new religion, and the old ways retreated into the shadows. Price brings together a variety of sources of evidence to back up his deductions, from archeological finds to literature, and is careful to lay out the other possible interpretations of these sources. The level of care he takes in giving life to this buffet of artifacts really helps the reader to situate these long-dead peoples within a reality we can grasp, and at the same time lets us share in the excitement and love of archeologists for their chosen slice of frozen time. The book is best for me when focusing on how the people lived and what drives them, less so when zooming out to talk about shifts of power, but it could just be me. It’s not a light read for sure, and I took hella long, but I learned a lot.

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