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on 9 February 2012
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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on 24 December 2013
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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on 21 May 2012
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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VINE VOICEon 31 August 2010
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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on 12 June 2015
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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on 21 January 2014
enjoyed this imensly ...the historical aspect was well drawn ...would recommend to all history buffs ,dispels a lot of the rubbish writton about the vikings....personaly i love this period in history......
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on 9 July 2010
This is an excellent book and an easy read. A survey of the Vikings, using their demographic movement whether it was for trade, plunder or immigration purposes. Clements writing style makes the book easy to follow.
Having read the book I am left with many questions of what might have been, or could have been if the Vikings we're not to assimilate into the local communities they conquered? or if the Vikings in the Rus (Kiev area, the territory from which Russia would be born) we're to accept catholic Christianity and not Greek-orthodox Christianity or if they we're not to give up on "Vinland" (Newfoundland in modern Canada) and instead we're to try again with serious force to settle in north America. The world as we know it would have been completely different.

While we are all taught about the Roman Empire and how it still plays an important role in our life (via its everlasting cultural heritage) and while it is true, it is I think a bit unfair that the Vikings don't get a big enough mention in the history books for the role they have played in shaping North Europe - from Normandy to Russia via the British isles, Scandinavia and The Baltic's, all of these (and more) have been shaped by Viking movement.

I would be interested in reading a book that compares Viking history with Mongolian history as they too we're the scourge of Europe (and Asia) and their movement was also fueled by search of conquest, trade or pastures new, and they too assimilated into the local cultures they conquered. Though there are differences between the two as the Mongolians we're to build an empire based on conquered China and the many other conquered territories (such as post Viking Russia, and on the ruins of the Abbasid empire in the Middle east), the Vikings never had an empire instead they stayed divided in their states and family feuds (and maybe that's why they we're not able to build an empire... they certainly didn't conquer an empire like the Mongols).

In any case, I highly recommend the book as an "Origins of modern North Europe" and an excellent introduction to who we're the Vikings (certainly not the friendly cartoon's we are accustomed to on TV), and finally you should read the book if only to ponder the many "what if?" questions the Vikings left as they're age came to a close.
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on 1 August 2011
Good book with lots of detail on the Vikings.
One thing that I was expecting and would like to have seen something on would have been what the Vikings relations with the Welsh and Scots were like. Also, did the Saxons suddenly stop coming to Britain around the C8 and if so, why did they stop just when the Vikings (from further north) started?
And in what parts of the UK were the Norweigan Vikings as opposed to ones from modern day Denmark most dominant.
And finally, how similar were the languages depending on which part of Scandinavia (and N France in case of the Normans) they were from and do we know to what extent they could converse easily with the Saxons?
I think these kinds of details could have been included and would have been interesting.
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on 13 April 2015
This is a very brief history of the Vikings and especially so when one considers that the first and second chapters are taken up in an consideration of the Vikings gods. I did enjoy the book but I must admit that I did prefer Neil Oliver's book on the Vikings. But a readable and enjoyable account of the "Vikings" therefore four stars .
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on 9 May 2014
I wanted to like this book, but I found it a bit boring wading through it. On the good side, it is crammed with facts and info - the author is obviously very knowledgeable, but I gave up half way through. May revisit at a later date.
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