The best books about the Vikings (from two archaeologists)

Dawn M. Hadley and Julian D. Richards Author Of The Viking Great Army and the Making of England
By Dawn M. Hadley and Julian D. Richards

The Books I Picked & Why

Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings

By Neil Price

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

Why 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.

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The Viking Diaspora

By Judith Jesch

Book cover of The Viking Diaspora

Why 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.

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Viking Britain

By Thomas Williams

Book cover of Viking Britain

Why 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.

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River Kings

By Cat Jarman

Book cover of River Kings

Why 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.

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Norse Myths: A Guide to the Gods and Heroes

By Carolyne Larrington

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

Why 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.

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