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The Vikings: A Very Short Introduction

Revised first edition

Julian D. Richards

Publication Date - November 2005

ISBN: 9780192806079

168 pages

Retail Price to Students: $11.95

A fascinating new look at the full spectrum of Viking culture reveals a more nuanced picture of this seafaring people


The Viking reputation is one of bloodthirsty seafaring warriors, repeatedly plundering the British Isles and the North Atlantic throughout the early Middle Ages. Yet Vikings were also traders, settlers, and farmers, with a complex artistic and linguistic culture, whose expansion overseas led them to cross the Atlantic for the first time in European history. Highlighting the latest archaeological evidence, Julian Richards reveals the whole Viking world: their history, their culture, and their legacy of overseas expansion for trade, colonization, and plunder. Viking identity is explored through what we have learned about their towns, art, shipbuilding, and religious rituals. Here the Viking story is brought up to the present, from the tales of adventure found in medieval Icelandic sagas, to their exploitation as a symbol of nationalism in the nineteenth century by Wagner, and later by Hitler and the Nazi party. The author also highlights their impact and influence on the history and people of Northern Europe. Vikings, a fascinating new look at a people and culture that have been reinvented throughout history, will take readers closer to discovering who they really were.


  • A fascinating new look at Vikings and the Viking Age, revealing how the identity of these people and their culture has been repeatedly reinvented throughout history, obscuring who the Vikings really were.
  • Examines how Vikings lived - their religious rituals, their towns, their trade, seafaring, colonization and plundering. The author also highlights their impact and influence on the history and people of Northern Europe.
  • The story of the Vikings is brought up to date, by looking at their re-invention from the Icelandic Sagas to 19th century nationalist movements, Wagner, and Nazism.
  • Combines the latest archaeological and historical evidence with tales of Viking heroes, such as Erik Bloodaxe and Harold Bluetooth.

About the Author(s)

Julian Richards is Professor of Archaology at the University of York, and co-director of the Centre for Medieval Studies. He specialises in the archaeology of Anglo-Saxon and Viking Age England, and has directed several excavations of Viking settlements, including the only Viking cremation cemetery in the British Isles. Previous publications include Viking Age England (Tempus, 2000).

Table of Contents

    List of illustrations
    1. Vikings then and now
    2. Early Scandinavian kingdoms
    3. Pagans and Christians
    4. Changes in the countryside
    5. Towns and trade
    6. Across the ocean: ships and seafaring
    7. Expansion overseas
    8. Vikings in England
    9. Raiders and settlers around the Irish Sea
    10. Vikings and Picts: genocide or assimilation?
    11. Landnám in the North Atlantic
    12. The edge of the world: Greenland and North America
    13. Re-inventing the Vikings
    Further reading