Viking Age Iceland

Viking Age Iceland

Book - 2001
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Medieval Iceland was unique amongst Western Europe, with no foreign policy, no defence forces, no king, no lords, no peasants and few battles. It should have been a utopia yet its liberature is dominated by brutality and killing. The reasons for this, argues Jesse Bycock, lie in the underlying structures and cultural codes of the islands' social order. Viking Age Iceland is an engaging, multi-disciplinary work bringing together findings in anthropology and ethnography interwoven with historical fact and masterful insights into the popular Icelandic sagas.
Publisher: London ; New York : Penguin Books, c2001
ISBN: 9780140291155
Characteristics: xxi, 447 p. : ill., maps ; 20 cm


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Mar 01, 2015

This book is an incredible study of early Icelandic society. It should be especially interesting to any reader of the Icelandic Sagas, however this should not be considered it's sole value. Early Icelandic society, it's social and political structures, is vividly portrayed through implementation of Archaeological and written sources by one of the most respected and innovative scholars of Icelandic history. The author, Jesse Byock of UCLA is not only a respected translator of various Sagas, but runs perhaps the most well regarded archeological project in Iceland: Mosfell Archaeological Project. For students of the history of Vikings, there is no more illuminating book about the possible way of life of the people most responsible for much of our knowledge of Viking age worship and society. It may be possible to criticize Viking Age Iceland for it's desire to use written sources to an extent previously considered foolhardy; as historical texts. This is a question I can only anticipate, but cannot speak on personally as I am only a lay reader, and not knowledgeable about the historiography of this time period. Byock in his introduction does hedge his bets against this potential and felt criticism by stating that, while it has been considered academically dangerous to draw historical knowledge from sagas, it may be less dangerous to draw cultural knowledge from these texts. Thus, dates, names, deeds, and depictions of specific political conflicts are likely at odds with historical "fact," but knowledge of social structures, ways of life, and means of governance may be more likely true than not. As a former student of anthropology and current viking history fan, I loved this book.


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