The best books about the Vikings (from two archaeologists)

Who are we?

Julian. D. Richards is a Professor of Archaeology at York. He has directed excavations at the Viking settlement at Cottam, and the only Viking cremation cemetery in the British Isles at Heath Wood. He is the author of Viking Age England, and The Vikings: A Short Introduction. His co-author is Dawn M. Hadley. Dawn is a Professor of Medieval Archaeology at the University of York. She and Julian Richards are Co-Directors of the Torksey project - which has been investigating the winter camp of the Viking Great Army of AD 872-3. She is the author of The Vikings in England and The Northern Danelaw.


We wrote...

The Viking Great Army and the Making of England

By Dawn M. Hadley, Julian D. Richards,

Book cover of The Viking Great Army and the Making of England

What is our book about?

The Viking Great Army that swept through England between AD 865 and 878 altered the course of English history. Drawing on their investigation of the Army’s winter camp at Torksey and a wealth of newly recovered evidence from metal-detectorists the authors trace the movements of the Great Army across the country, piecing together a new picture of the Viking Age England.

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The books we picked & why

Book cover of Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings

Dawn M. Hadley and Julian D. Richards Why did I love this book?

Neil Price holds the Chair of Archaeology at Uppsala University in Sweden. He is currently running a major 10-year project, The Viking Phenomenon, which explores the nature and causes of the Viking Age, with a focus on themes that have featured in Price’s earlier research, including Viking belief systems, the role of slavery, and how far Viking armies were pirate communities. In this major new work, he draws upon the latest archaeological evidence to provide a tremendous overview and new insights into how the Vikings may have seen themselves, descendents of the first human couple, the children of Ash and Elm.

By Neil Price,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Children of Ash and Elm as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A TIMES BOOK OF THE YEAR 2020

'As brilliant a history of the Vikings as one could possibly hope to read' Tom Holland

The 'Viking Age' is traditionally held to begin in June 793 when Scandinavian raiders attacked the monastery of Lindisfarne in Northumbria, and to end in September 1066, when King Harald Hardrada of Norway died leading the charge against the English line at the Battle of Stamford Bridge. This book, the most wide-ranging and comprehensive assessment of the current state of our knowledge, takes a refreshingly different view. It shows that the Viking expansion began generations before the…


Book cover of The Viking Diaspora

Dawn M. Hadley and Julian D. Richards Why did I love this book?

Judith Jesch is Professor of Viking Studies at the University of Nottingham and whilst she is primarily a specialist in early medieval literature she has a rare inter-disciplinary command of historical and archaeological sources. In this sweeping review of the Viking World she provides an authoritative overview of the Scandinavians at home and their migrations overseas, with a particular focus on gender and the family, and cults, beliefs and myths. By using the concept of diaspora, she focuses on the ways in which migrants maintained their sense of cultural identity with the Scandinavian homelands and other areas of Scandinavian migration. The interconnectedness of the Viking world is at the heart of this book, and language is seen as key to the maintenance of the Viking diaspora, reinforced by texts and material culture.

By Judith Jesch,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Viking Diaspora as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Viking Diaspora presents the early medieval migrations of people, language and culture from mainland Scandinavia to new homes in the British Isles, the North Atlantic, the Baltic and the East as a form of 'diaspora'. It discusses the ways in which migrants from Russia in the east to Greenland in the west were conscious of being connected not only to the people and traditions of their homelands, but also to other migrants of Scandinavian origin in many other locations.

Rather than the movements of armies, this book concentrates on the movements of people and the shared heritage and culture…


Book cover of Viking Britain

Dawn M. Hadley and Julian D. Richards Why did I love this book?

Thomas Williams was project curator for the major international exhibition Vikings: Life and Legend, held at the British Museum in 2014. In this tremendously readable account of Viking Britain from the late eighth to the end of the tenth century he interweaves first-person narrative, evocative prose, and more conventional historical and archaeological discussion to provide a new form of Viking history. Williams demonstrates how the Vikings have shaped British society, and how our perception has been shaped by authors such as J.R.R. Tolkien and William Morris.

By Thomas Williams,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Viking Britain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A new narrative history of the Viking Age, interwoven with exploration of the physical remains and landscapes that the Vikings fashioned and walked: their rune-stones and ship burials, settlements and battlefields.

To many, the word 'Viking' brings to mind red scenes of rape and pillage, of marauders from beyond the sea rampaging around the British coastline in the last gloomy centuries before the Norman Conquest. It is true that Britain in the Viking Age was a turbulent, violent place. The kings and warlords who have impressed their memories on the period revel in names that fire the blood and stir…


Book cover of River Kings

Dawn M. Hadley and Julian D. Richards Why did I love this book?

Cat Jarman is an archaeologist and specialist in bioarchaeology, including Ancient DNA and stable isotope research, which have the power to identify where people spent their childhoods and who their relatives were. As part of her PhD she re-examined the disarticulated bones of at least 264 individuals from a charnel deposit associated with the over-wintering of the Viking Great Army in Repton. In the site archive, she discovered a carnelian bead which had been excavated amongst the bones. In this highly readable account the bead becomes the jumping-off point for a journey which takes her along the major waterways of eastern Europe, along the Silk Roads, and to the source of the carnelian in India.

By Cat Jarman,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked River Kings as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER & THE TIMES HISTORY BOOK OF 2021 'Astonishing and compelling' Bernard Cornwell 'Replete with witches, human sacrifice, Greek fire and funeral orgies... one of the most thrilling works of archaeological detective work I have ever read' William Dalrymple, FT

Follow bioarchaeologist Cat Jarman - and the cutting-edge forensic techniques central to her research - as she uncovers epic stories of the Viking age and follows a small 'Carnelian' bead found in a Viking grave in Derbyshire to its origins thousands of miles to the east in Gujarat.

'This superb book is like a classical symphony, perfectly…


Book cover of Norse Myths: A Guide to the Gods and Heroes

Dawn M. Hadley and Julian D. Richards Why did I love this book?

Carolyne Larrington is Professor of Medieval European Literature at the University of Oxford, and an expert in Old Norse literature. In this succinct introduction to Viking-Age legends, gods and mythical figures, she begins with a discussion of the evidence, revealing how we are able to piece together Norse mythology. She then guides the reader through the major aspects of Norse mythology from the origins of the world to Valhalla, via the complex battles between gods, giants, and heroes. There are handy summaries of the principal characteristics of the major figures discussed in the book, which is well illustrated throughout, with depictions of gods and heroes from Viking-Age iconography and modern representations of Norse mythology.

By Carolyne Larrington,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Norse Myths as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Who were the Norse gods - the mighty AEsyr, led by Odinn, and the mysterious Vanir? In The Norse Myths we meet this passionate and squabbling pantheon, and learn of the mythological cosmos they inhabit. Passages translated from the Old Norse bring this legendary world to life, from the myths of creation to ragnaroek, the prophesied end of the world at the hands of Loki's army of monsters and giants, and everything that comes in between: the problematic relationship between the gods and the giants, in which enmity and trickery are punctuated by marriages and seductions; the (mis) adventures of…


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Maryka Biaggio Author Of The Model Spy: Based on the True Story of Toto Koopman’s World War II Ventures

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Interested in Vikings, the Norsemen, and archaeology?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Vikings, the Norsemen, and archaeology.

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