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A Brief History of the Vikings: The Last Pagans or the First Modern Europeans? (Brief History Series) Paperback – 23 Sep 2005

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Avalon Publishing Group (23 Sept. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786715995
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786715992
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 13 x 1.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,488,040 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dr Jonathan Clements is the author of many books on East Asian history, including biographies of emperors and empresses, statesmen and warriors, foreign visitors and outcast rebels. His works have been translated into over a dozen languages, including French, Spanish, Korean and Dutch. His biographies of the First Emperor and Empress Wu have both been translated into Chinese.

Product Description

Book Description

The last pagans or the first modern Europeans? A consice history of the Vikings --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

'From the Fury of the Northmen deliver us, O Lord.'





Between the eighth and eleventh centuries, the Vikings surged from their Scandinavian homeland to trade, raid and invade along the coasts of Europe. Their influence and expeditions extended from Newfoundland to Baghdad, their battles were as far-flung as Africa and the Arctic. But were they great seafarers or desperate outcasts, noble heathens or oafish pirates, the last pagans or the first of the modern Europeans?





This concise study puts medieval chronicles, Norse sagas and Muslim accounts alongside more recent research into ritual magic, genetic profiling and climatology. It includes biographical sketches of some of the most famous Vikings, from Erik Bloodaxe to Saint Olaf, and King Canute to Leif the Lucky. It explains why the Danish king Harald Bluetooth lent his name to a twenty-first century wireless technology; which future saint laughed as she buried foreign ambassadors alive; why so many Icelandic settlers had Irish names; and how the last Viking colony was destroyed by English raiders.





Extending beyond the traditional 'Viking age' of most books, A Brief History of the Vikings places sudden Scandinavian population movement in a wider historical context. It presents a balanced appraisal of these infamous sea kings, explaining both their swift expansion and its supposed halt. Supposed because, ultimately, the Vikings didn't disappear: they turned into us.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By valkyrie1008 on 9 Feb. 2012
Format: Paperback
This book is a suprisingly pleasant read and although it says Brief History on the front it doesn't feel like it. Each chapter gives enough details, dates, key characters, key locations etc that you are left satisfied not disappointed when it's time to move onto the next one. I am paritcularly impressed by the second to final chapter he's devoted to a key character not discussed in other history books I've read, Harald Hardrada. It allows you to follow him from his childhood through his years abroad gathering glory and treasure until he finally claims the throne of Norway and is lured to England with the death of Edward the Confessor. The other goods things are it of course looks at the Norse myths and gods and the influence on the Vikings, the Vikings impact on an international scale from the various countries they raided, fought in or discovered and settled. Whether this is a passing interest or a research project, you can not fail to learn a lot and have a developed understanding after reading this if you are interested in the vikings culture and history and people in any way at all.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By ericmitford on 24 Dec. 2013
Format: Paperback
Confronted by the endless complexities of Viking interactions, whether by war or marriage, as much as by their contact with far-flung lands and civilisations, Jonathan Clements has done an admirable job in maintaining our interest while attempting to draw out coherent themes.

After an introductory chapter on Norse myths and belief systems, Clements has adopted a broadly geographical approach to his subject. Thus there are chapters on Viking expeditions west to Greenland and the fabled Vinland, and on their remarkable ventures down the rivers of Russia to Byzantium and Baghdad. In between there are chapters on the succession of raids on the British Isles that led to Danelaw in the eastern half of England, and a running theme of the way factionalism played out in what we today know as Norway, Sweden and Denmark.

If at times the fighting, betrayals and inter-marrying threaten to blur in the mind, that's just the way Viking history is - complicated. Yes, there are a few typographical errors, but nothing to justify the reaction of some reviewers here. Clements writes with commendable style and humour and includes a proper index and bibliography. The handful of photos aren't especially enlightening, but are well reproduced and, best of all, Clements has included dynastic tables for each kingdom that are a considerable help in unscrambling people and dates.

Not introductory, then, so much as a short book containing all the average non-specialist reader will want to know about the Vikings and their impact on our history and imagination.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mads Graff Lorenzen on 21 May 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Let me start by saying that this is not a easy subject to get a grip around, because it's very fragmented, and there are a big lack of sources for some periodes of the age. But in generel I think this was a good introduction to the subject, eventhough I think elements was missing, like the relationship between Denmark and Germany, and the big castles in Denmark at the time (like Trelleborg, Aggerborg or Fyrkat) which I had hoped to find out more about. But overall a good introduction
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Graham R. Hill VINE VOICE on 31 Aug. 2010
Format: Paperback
Clements entertainingly skims through the history of the Vikings across Europe and the North Atlantic, mainly in the 9th, 10th and 11th centuries. He draws heavily, but sceptically, on the varous sagas as well as more authentic historical records such as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. The book untangles as well as can be expected the often confusing family relationships of the key players, but one is still left with a whole host of similar first-named characters distinguished only by nicknames ranging from the prosaic (e.g. Harald Greycloak) to the slightly more bizarre (Einar the Paunch-shaker is my favourite, but he is run close by Halli the Sarcastic). The author is inconsistent as to how well he explains these soubriquets; Harald apparently 'had a grey cloak', but it is never made clear whether Einar favoured wobbling his own gut or those of other people. It was disappointing, but probably not surprising, to discover that 'Bluetooth' is a mistranslation and that the teeth of the king in question were more likely to have been black.

Clements also explains well the gradual conversion to Christianity and the long period of its coexistence with the older, and widely tolerated paganism. He is dryly amusing on how deeply converted some of the rulers were. In any event the guiding principle of Viking royal family life seemed to be that if one's brothers or father were still alive then one fought them; if they were dead then one avenged them. It was all very clear cut.

However the book is let down by some appalling typographical errors: mis-spellings, repeated phrases and just plain gibberish. The reader can, I think, always work out what is meant, but one shouldn't have to put up with this in the first place.
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Format: Audio Download
We chose not to visit the Jorvik Viking Centre when we were in York so I took the opportunity to plaster over a few of the gaps in my Viking history knowledge by downloading A Brief History Of The Vikings via Audible UK. I got lucky as this book was included in one of their 2 for 1 credit sales for members so it only actually cost just under £3! The information would easily be worth a full credit though.

A Brief History Of The Vikings is cram packed with names, dates and familial relationships. I would say that it is a male book because it concentrates on battles and power rather than giving much on how the various Viking societies lived their day to day lives. However, there is an interesting chapter about religious belief and later chapters touch on the violent forced conversions to Christianity from Paganism.

I was amazed by how far Viking influence spread during the three centuries of their 'heyday'. I already knew about the Danelaw that covered much of northern and eastern Britain for a long period, resulting in many modern-day people of that area tracing Scandinavian ancestry. It was interesting to learn more about this time and how the Viking Danelaw existed alongside the remaining Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. Viking traders and settlers were also recorded by the Spanish Moors, the Byzantine empire, as the Russ in Russia, and even building camps in the north Americas centuries before Columbus.

A Brief History this book might be but, at a nine-hour listen and with so much information, I think it is one that could be returned to several times and might even take those several listens to determine exactly who is descended from whom!
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