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Vikings [Paperback]

Neil Oliver
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
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Book Description

5 Sep 2013

The Vikings famously took no prisoners, relished cruel retribution, and prided themselves on their blood-thirsty skills as warriors. But their prowess in battle is only a small part of their story, which stretches from their Scandinavian origins to America in the west and as far as Baghdad in the east.

As the Vikings did not write their history, we have to discover it for ourselves, and that discovery, as Neil Oliver reveals, tells an extraordinary story of a people who, from the brink of destruction, reached a quarter of the way around the globe and built an empire that lasted nearly 200 years.

Drawing on the latest discoveries that have only recently come to light, Neil Oliver goes on the trail of the real Vikings. Where did they emerge from? How did they really live? And just what drove them to embark on such extraordinary voyages of discovery over 1000 years ago? VIKINGS will explore many of these questions for the first time in an epic story of one of the world's great empires of conquest.

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Vikings + A History of Ancient Britain + A History Of Scotland
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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix (5 Sep 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1780222823
  • ISBN-13: 978-1780222820
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 12.8 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 33,913 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


This is an engaging and enjoyable look at the fierce race who dominated the North Sea in the early medieval period, traversing as far as central Asia all the way to the Americas. In his likeable, young-professor style, Oliver looks at the wider historical context in which these fascinating people lived, and (as always) explores the archaeological evidence they left behind. (CATHOLIC HERALD)

This book derives from one of Neil Oliver's TV series, and is just like them: engaging, informative, good on both landscapes and seascapes, and with a lot of Neil Oliver in it, leaping about. (BBC HISTORY)

Book Description

Neil Oliver goes beyond their bloody reputation to search for the truth about the Vikings - from Newfoundland to Moscow, Iceland to Istanbul.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed 20 Sep 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed the TV series "Vikings" and looked forward to reading the book to get more detail. But when I got to page 11 and read "Just as Emperor Penguins remain to endure the Arctic winter, when all other warm-blooded creatures flee southwards, so the Saami had stubbornly retained a toehold on their demesne throughout the period of the last glacial" I stopped. And this was shortly after Mr Oliver had told us about his epic sailing trip to South Orkney in the sub-Antarctic where no doubt he learnt that penguins are only found in the southern hemisphere. Two factual errors in one sentence makes me think that these are not typos - everyone knows surely that Polar Bears, Arctic Foxes, Musk Oxen and many other warm-blooded creatures live through the Arctic winter and do not flee southwards in migration. This looks more like "mis-statement" caused by a fundamental lack of knowledge of the far north where the Vikings voyaged with such skill. I struggled on for another chapter but gave up with the overwhelming feeling that if he can get such basics wrong how can I be sure of the rest of what he writes? The spell was broken.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Neil Oliver's great book 11 April 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Before I read this record of the Vikings, I knew very little about them as a group, besides the general idea that they had invaded England. Now I know that, for example, William the Conqueror was one of the many Viking groups who spread across Europe from Scandinavia to Constantinople in the East, and across England, Scotland, Ireland and the Orkneys, besides Eric the Red's famous journey across the Atlantic to the edge of North America.

Oliver's style is lively. He places himself inside the events which he records, imagining for example a young girl in a red dress running around a Danish port, and vividly recording the daily lives of the marauding invaders. He explains how the Vikings took on many of the characteristics of the countries where they moved, fitting smoothly into other societies: besides of course demanding obedience by bitter fighting. A Viking could never be separated from his axe and knife. But they are the forerunners of most of the European societies which we know today: including our own in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great 24 Dec 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If you love the Vikings this book has so much info.
Great pictures and well written. Good present, go me out of a pickle!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So interesting 26 May 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A birthday gift for my husband. He loves it.And it is so full of interesting information, even to one who is not particularly interested in history
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This is another detailed, fascinating, illuminating, non-boring book and I think is a real complete history of the Vikings in that just like the TV series Neil really investigates the origins of the Viking people before they became known as Vikings. So we learn how they migrated and occupied early Scandinavia during the bronze and iron ages, how they had local chieftans and how who owned the most metal was king. We look at how early burial mounds preceded to the more familiar boat-shaped grave markings and soon developed into full scale boat burials such as the Gokstad ship.

We then learn about how each of the key viking people from Norway, Sweden and Denmark made their mark in the world, with the Swedes discovering and founding Russia, the Norwegians creating a great slave trade linking Dublin in Ireland to Istanbul in the East and of course the Danes who harassed the early French (Frank) empire, sailed and raided around the spanish coast and tops of north africa before too landing and forging a great connection in Istandbul by provided the Holy Roman Emporer with the finest of body guards before of course forging a path of war to Britain and all it's anglo-saxon riches.

We come across great characters of the time such as Cnut the Great, Harald Hardrada, Floki who discovered Iceland, Eirik the Red and his son Lief the Lucky who discovered Greenland and then Vinland in North America, Harald Finehair and Harald Bluetooth, St Olaf, the Anglo-saxon rulers such as Alfred the Great, his grandson Athelstan, Ethelred the Unready, the unfortunate Harold Godwinson, and so many more. It really is a truly enlightening and enjoyable read and kept me occupied for many months. It is a superb partner for the BBC series which is available on DVD.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A concentrated read 2 Feb 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Love Neil Oliver's style but found this not the most flowing of works. V interesting if you concentrate on the work and a super overview
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vikings 1 Feb 2013
Superb read highly recomended,neil oliver brings to life how brave and ingenious these people were brilliant explorers and totaly fearless
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21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
There is something about Neil Oliver that deeply divides the audience. Look at the cover of this book accompanying his BBC Series "Vikings - A History" and he looks like an extra out of "Poldark" all windswept and interesting but slightly preposterous. It's a shame since as a populariser of history Neil Oliver brings a highly energetic and engaging approach. This is completed by a Scottish burr with his enunciated vowels firing off sweeping statements and emphasised by dramatic hand movements. As an archaeologist by trade he uses real objects to tell us his story of the past and with the Vikings there is a lively tale to chronicle.

The Vikings suffer from "Kirk Douglas" syndrome. Everyone has seen the film of the same name co-starring Tony Curtis with that wretched horn call blowing every two seconds. It has created a popular image of a band of sea borne hairy marauders dedicated to a range of pagan God's, famous for rape, fire and pillage and general debauchery; all this leading to a glorious passage to Valhalla and probably more of the same. Granted the film did avoid the awful historical cliché of the wearing of horned helmets but enough mead was drunk out of horns to raise shares in Bass and it was of course pure Hollywood. Oliver's book is about separating out the myth from reality, discovering the real Vikings from their own point of view and in his words to fill a gap. As he states what is needed is "a biography of the Vikings", since the inescapable fact faces any historian of the Vikings that "with the exception of the rune stones, which anyway provide little more than names and boasts" not a word of (Viking history) ...was written by the Vikings themselves".
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Good, informative book.
Published 18 days ago by Mike Horton
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read
I had never bought this kind of book before leaning more toward fiction, however I liked the writing style and it was interesting and informative without being to heavy.
Published 1 month ago by jellybean
5.0 out of 5 stars Vikings .. He knows a lot about my ancestors! ;)
I enjoyed reading this book because it gave me an almost totally different picture of a people that are my forebears. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Marit Nathalie Sagbak
5.0 out of 5 stars Scandanavia as it once was
Really interesting history told by someone who obviously loves the subject matter. Amazing to think that present day Scandinavians are descended from the rampaging, adventurous and... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Czechboy
5.0 out of 5 stars Accessible authoritative history
I progressed directly from Neil Oliver's "History of Ancient Britain" to this book and find the same standard of totally readable and informative history. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Rosemary A Holt
5.0 out of 5 stars Vikings
Bought for my Granddaughters studies at school teacher was impressed with it, granddaughter loved it. Neil Oliver is a very good author.
Published 3 months ago by Patricia Postle
5.0 out of 5 stars Present
Bought as a present for some one who is very into a bit of history and I thought they would enjoy it. They did.
Published 3 months ago by Mrs T A Garlick
4.0 out of 5 stars A light and enjoyable read...
I didn't watch the BBC documentary series this book is designed to accompany - in fact, I've never seen any of Neil Oliver's documentaries. Read more
Published 3 months ago by C. Ball
5.0 out of 5 stars Viking fans must buy
Im a massive Viking history fan got the dvd of this book the book goes into a lot more detail so learnt even more a brilliant read
Published 4 months ago by marc
4.0 out of 5 stars Freat read and very educational.
Very good and very clear descriptions etc of what life was really like at the time when Britain was invaded and subsequently occupied by the Vikings and the legacy that we still... Read more
Published 5 months ago by William Tait
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