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The Vikings

3.87  ·  Rating Details ·  759 Ratings  ·  42 Reviews
Book Club Edition (no ISBN)
'An utterly splendid book, quite the most brilliantly written, balanced & explanative general work on the Vikings ever to appear in English or in any language.'--Scandinavian Studies
This book's covers the Viking realms of Denmark, Sweden & Norway, their civilization, culture & manysided achievements at home & abroad. A highly re
Hardcover, 490 pages
Published 1997 by Folio Society (first published 1968)
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Sep 25, 2014 Madeline rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"...the temptation is strong to offer generalizations about the viking himself, produce a 'typical' figure, and prop him against the museum wall with his catalogue number and descriptive label. It is a temptation to be resisted because of its limiting and misleading consequences. Harald Hardradi, who waged war from Asia Minor to Stamford Bridge for thirty-five years, was a viking; so was his father Sigurd Sow, who stayed at home and counted haystacks. Hastein, who led the Great Army of the Danes ...more
Bryn Hammond
Apr 01, 2012 Bryn Hammond rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: medieval-other
A dream of a history book: deep, detailed, never a moment's boredom, and, ta-da, with writerly touches. I have a huge gratitude for writerly touches (wit, humour, art spent on a sentence) in non-fiction, that doesn't often bother to be a writer too. It makes the research swim by when you have them nuggets to look forward to.
Sep 06, 2011 Bruce rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a detailed and comprehensive history of the Viking Age, an excellent resource for those wishing to learn more about this fascinating and important era. He covers the origins of the Scandinavians in pre-history through the Norman Conquest of England in 1066 CE. His discussions are broad and encyclopedic, covering political history, explorations, art, religion, and the daily life of the people. I found the book to be an excellent complement to Kenneth Harl’s Teaching Company Course, The Vi ...more
Solid introductory history, longer and more detailed than for instance The Vikings in History with fairly lengthy quotes in translation from the source material on the Volga Vikings in particular. Deeply OK if probably a bit dated now. For something with a more rounded perspective taking in daily life I would recommend Else Roesdahl's book The Vikings.
Erik Graff
Sep 01, 2009 Erik Graff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Viking fans
Recommended to Erik by: Einar Graff
Shelves: history
This book serves as a very good general introduction to the history of the Norse from legendary times to 1066.

Interestingly, despite having visited some of the sites mentioned and except for children's books on the subject and the occasional article, I think this was only the first or second real book I ever read about my putative ancestors. They are rather embarrassing.
Lauren Albert
Immensely readable, well-written account of the history of the vikings. Jones is addicted to analogies and metaphors and they do help to make the vikings and those who encountered them more "present." My favorite:

"Ireland, England, France were the vikings' Mexico, with learning, arts, wealth, and a civilization superior to those of their northern conquistadors, and a similar inability to defend themselves from a numerically inferior but mobile and energetic foe." 200

She shows that they were not
May 06, 2013 Bettie☯ marked it as wish-list  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Bettie☯ by: Neil
to find
Feb 10, 2012 Tyler rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
A very lengthy and detailed historical book, I learned a lot from it. The organization of this book is somewhat odd as it breaks into large chapter-chunks various topics based on themes, regions, time periods, etc. It was not chronological and not rigid in its chapter makeup. It was sort of an odd way to break up chapters and made the book difficult to read at times because there was never a sense of progression, you feel as if you are hopping ceaselessly from one topic to the next without knowi ...more
Mitch Gage
Interesting at the onset but quickly became a slow slog of impenetrable looping narratives and unpronounceable names. Harald Hardradi was supposedly quite the badass.
Mar 02, 2014 Michael rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
In the interests of full disclosure, I didn't finish this book but I tried very hard, I'm marking it off as read as I'm never going to finish it and I don't like seeing it constantly sitting on my To Read shelf... So many people had said good things about it and I was really keen to learn some history of the Vikings and this book seemed appropriate to that!

It was written a while ago and the language reflects that but I could cope with that element. What I really struggled with was the discursiv
Czarny Pies
May 27, 2014 Czarny Pies rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in European History
Recommended to Czarny by: My sisiter
Shelves: european-history
This is an excellent survey history of the Vikings which may never be superseded. Gwyn Jones managed to learn the entire plethora of languages in which the source documents were written (for example old and middle Welsh). It is not clear that there will ever be another scholar willing or able to learn all these now highly obscure tongues. Archeological finds continue to be made but given that the Vikings built with wood rather than stone, what is found is frequently not very enlightening.

Gwyn Jo
Christopher Hivner
Read this some years ago. It is a very well researched and detailed account of the 300 years when the Vikings were the most feared men in the world. There are accounts of the lives of some of the most famous Vikings as well as cultural facts, and a deep historical study of where the Vikings traveled and settled as well as theory into why. This is a scholarly work and one of the best books on the Vikings I have read
Andrew Lloyd
Aug 04, 2015 Andrew Lloyd rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A monstrously large overview of the Viking period. Jones still manages to fill the book with details tying the overall themes together- Vikings were more than raiders and warmongers. Jones does well to show the various sagas which have affected our view of early Scandinavian history and bombards the reader with multiple theories and interpretations. A good entry into a general overview of the period.
Apr 09, 2014 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fairly detailed and very informative history of the Viking age. Jones balances history with historical theory, legend, and anecdotes to make an incredibly accessible and easy to digest book.

I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone without some basic knowledge of Europe as a whole in this period, but Jones does a good job at providing context while staying in the bounds of the 'Vikings'. And there is a real sense of enthusiasm and excitement about the way this book is written
Steve Bivans
This is a very good overview of the Viking Age. I have used it as a textbook for a couple of college courses. My one critique is that Jones chose to break up the chronology a bit too much, in order to delve into topics, but that's mostly a pet peeve of mine. All in all, a very good book on the subject.
Dry, and older. Still serves as a solid introduction to Scandinavia from 793-1104ish. When Jones becomes the most engaged with the subject, his/her writing can become a little unclear. It's hard to figure out when in history events take place. But, Jones clearly loves the Viking Age and some passages are splendidly funny.
Mar 05, 2013 James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great read on the history of Vikings, it should still be considered the standard history. The problems it has are two fold. One, the author passed over ten years ago and he missed several important archaeological development. Lastly, this is not a casual read, this shit is hardcore scholarly work.
Jay Wright
Mar 30, 2016 Jay Wright rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very difficult book to read. The names alone will drive you nuts. The work is well researched and has compiled as thorough history of the vikings as I can imagine. It is well footnoted and I recommend you take your time with the footnotes. The sources collected show a wealth of research.
Kathryn  Bullen
Dec 18, 2015 Kathryn Bullen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Came across this brilliant and comprehensive guide to the world of the Vikings in a second hand book shop - so much interesting and surprising detail. Definitely the best read on the subject I have come across recently.
Jul 14, 2012 Tommy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I liked it. A fast paced review of Viking conquests and culture. I enjoyed Jones' writing style but at times it did come off very stuffy and too scholarly. However, the 3 chapters on Scandinavian culture were outstanding and detailed. I'd recommend it.
Oct 25, 2007 thos. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
gd! this was a difficult read. it should have been titled, 'everything known about the vikings pounded into a single dense text' with a subheading 'you will never keep track of all the nigh-identical norse names for people and places'.

i should have read 'intro to vikings' first.

Steve Bennett
Oct 18, 2011 Steve Bennett rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love the Vikings and this in my opinion is the most comprehensive and scholarly book on the Vikings so I of course loved it. The writing is rather dry but what the hell. The sections on Viking culture were particularly good and rather funny.
Apr 06, 2011 Josh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting book about the Norseman. They were better business man than previously though as well as fearsome warrior plus including details about the bleak landscape of the frigid north of Europe in place such as Norway and Sweden as well as Denmark.
Sarah Schanze
Some parts were hard to get through, mostly the chapters focusing on specific people. A lot of names get thrown at me and I can't always keep everyone straight, and I'm much more interested in the everyday life of people in this time period than in all the people (men, really) in charge.
Nov 12, 2009 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The best book about the Vikings, by the expert in the subject. I have a Folio edition version of this, with serpents and runes inlaid on the spine and cover. I don't know how I got through so many books...
Oct 07, 2016 Alex rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Incredibly well researched history of the Vikings. But the book can be dense at times, and sometimes it goes a bit too deep into the power struggles of even the minor chieftains of every small kingdom.
Jaime Contreras
This is one of the oldest andstill best books on the Viking society and world. It has laid the groundwork for many of the later books and is used by many novelists as the reference book on the Nordic people of old.
Ginger Heskett
I registered a book at!
Adam Gutschenritter
Sep 26, 2012 Adam Gutschenritter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I love the vikings
Jul 06, 2010 Marisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the only book about the Vikings that you need to own. It has it all...and that's a lot of info!
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Goodreads Librari...: ISBN for an old book 1 19 Nov 22, 2014 01:45AM  
  • The Vikings
  • The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Vikings
  • Viking Age Iceland
  • Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga
  • The Vikings
  • Heimskringla: or, The Lives of the Norse Kings
  • The Anglo-Saxons
  • The Oxford Illustrated History of the Vikings
  • Anglo-Saxon England (Oxford History of England)
  • The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki
  • The Celts
  • The Vikings
  • Gods and Myths of Northern Europe
  • Women in the Viking Age
  • The Sagas of Icelanders
  • The Making of the Middle Ages
  • The Barbarian Conversion: From Paganism to Christianity
  • The Northern Crusades
Professor of English from 1940, writer, translator and academic. Chairman of the Welsh Arts Council, CBE, holder of the Knight's Cross of the Order of the Falcon (1963) and the Commander's Cross (1987) of Iceland.
More about Gwyn Jones...

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