Blue Ribbon

This document began life in 1993 as a booklist for an SCA knight newly possessed of two Viking squires. It was last updated on 24 November 1998.

This document is provided as is without any express or implied warranties. While every effort has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information contained, the author assumes no responsibility for errors or omissions, or for damages resulting from the use of the information contained herein.

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So Your Squire Wants to Be a "Barbarian"... : A Bibliography of Sources on Vikings for the Non-Viking

Copyright © 1993, 1998 Carolyn Priest-Dorman.

Below are listed several useful sources in English for information on the Viking Age. The "Introductory" list is weighted toward intellectually reputable books without egregious ideological bias; these books are easy to find in both public and private libraries, inexpensive to purchase for oneself, or both. Some of them are carried by SCA merchants, and many are available on remainder for very reasonable prices. The "Treasures" list is composed of books that a serious Viking really needs to see, but that can be more difficult (or more expensive) to obtain. The "Warning" is just that.


Almgren, Bertil, et al. The Viking. Gothenburg, Sweden: Tre Tryckare, Cagner and Co., 1966.
The first, and still one of the best, of the Viking coffee-table books, reprinted so many times that giving an ISBN number is pointless. Also known as "the book with the ugly people," due to the illustrator's fondness for drawing craggy faces, this book has some glorious close-ups of weaponry, etc., as well as useful line drawings of many daily-use artefacts. Occasional captioning problems (mislabeled artefacts, usually) that make it less than perfect as a one-book library, but still very valuable. Not trustworthy for garments and accessories, though; it was written before most of the careful work in Viking garment archaeology was performed.
Foote, Peter, and Wilson, David M. The Viking Achievement: The Society and Culture of Early Medieval Scandinavia. Sidgwick and Jackson Great Civilizations Series. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1990 [London: Sidgwick and Jackson Ltd., 1980]. ISBN 0-312-03510-1.
Possibly the best single-book introduction to the Vikings. A little dated in spots, and not particularly strong on historical chronology, but a good general overview of Viking society. Good coverage of law and social organization, including the class structure. Useful chapters on art, warfare, and poetic structure. Don't trust the information on dress.
Graham-Campbell, James. The Viking World. New Haven: Ticknor & Fields, 1980. ISBN 9-89919-005-7.
One of three books put out by this author in the year the huge Viking exhibition toured Europe and the U.S. A coffee- table book with excellent summary information on many aspects of social organization, including religion, culture, trade, and politics. Good sections on ships and ship-building, textiles, and home life. Noteworthy for the best brief summary chronology of Viking art styles I've ever seen (there are six distinct periods of Viking art, spanning three centuries).
Graham-Campbell, James, and Kidd, Dafydd. The Vikings. London: British Museum, 1980. ISBN 0-914427-25-3.
Another coffee-table book, this one with many excellent photos of artefacts of domestic, military, religious, and leisure activities. Especially strong on close-ups of jewelry.
Haywood, John. The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Vikings. London: Penguin Books/Viking, 1995. ISBN 0-14-0-51328-0.
Heavily military view, abounding in information about raids, battles, campaigns, and war leaders. Interesting format mostly consisting of short sections with copious, detailed maps. Some offbeat photos.
Heath, Ian. The Vikings. Osprey Men-at-Arms Elite Series 3. London: Osprey Publishing Ltd., 1985. ISBN 0-85045-565-0.
The Osprey series is sufficiently grounded in history and artefacts to make this publication valuable in the SCA. A good inexpensive introduction to the period, with a military slant; however, with a few exceptions (too much trim on the bottoms of garments, too much cross-gartering, and the bands on the chest of the riding coat) the depictions of men's garb can also be trusted.
Jones, Gwyn. A History of the Vikings, rev. ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1984.
A standard historical work on the period, this book provides a solid foundation for understanding what can be a very confusing period. Slow going, a little dated, and fairly traditional in its interpretation, but still useful.
Sawyer, Peter, ed. The Oxford Illustrated History of the Vikings.Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. ISBN 0-19-820526-0
Largely a history of the Scandinavian expansion, with chapters on several specific locales by interested scholars. The chapter on "The Vikings in History and Legend" is a good introduction to the problems of studying the Viking Age. The annotated list of Further Readings for each chapter is useful.


Graham-Campbell, James. Viking Artefacts: A Select Catalogue. London: British Museum Publications, 1980.
The catalogue of the first major Viking exhibition, this has a huge number of black-and-white plates. It's organized into chapters, one of which is war-related, with loads of weaponry including ornamented spearpoints, swordhilts, and arrowheads. Out of print and hard to find save at university libraries, it's worth tracking down.
Klindt-Jensen, Ole, and Wilson, David M. Viking Art, second edition. The Nordic Series 6. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1980. ISBN 0-8166-0974-8.
The standard work on the subject, this book has detailed chapters on the six periods of Viking art together with many black-and-white plates of pieces both familiar and obscure (e.g., the Mammen belt findings).
Magnusson, Magnus. Vikings! New York: E.P. Dutton, 1980. ISBN 0-525-22892-6.
The companion volume to the PBS series, it is arranged chronologically in order of invasions. It's chatty, a little bloodthirsty, and some of the photos and information tidbits are very much off the beaten track, so it's interesting to browse. Magnusson is an Icelander renowned for his translations of sagas into English.
Roesdahl, Else, and Wilson, David M., eds. From Viking to Crusader: The Scandinavians and Europe 800-1200. New York: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 1992. ISBN 0-8478-1625-7.
A catalogue of the second big Viking exhibition to tour Europe. The first half of the book has very useful brief essays on a wide range of subjects that are illustrated by glorious color photographs. The second is the catalogue proper, which has tiny, often disappointing black-and-white illustrations but which sometimes furnishes information about a particular artifact that is unavailable in any other publication. Out of print; for a bibliophile Viking, well worth the price of purchase.

A Warning

du Chaillu, Paul B. The Viking Age: The Early History, Manners, and Customs of the Ancestors of the English Speaking Nations...., 2 vols. New York: C. Scribner's Sons, 1889.
Stay away from this work until you've learned enough to be critical of his claims. Idealized, Master Race version of Scandinavian history as the alleged source for English superiority. Line drawings of artifacts from a thousand years of pre-Viking history confuse the subject matter. On the positive side, extensive quotations from sagas and other medieval sources (not all of them used judiciously, however). This work is responsible for more bad SCA Viking behavior than any single other, in my experience.

This page was created on 4 October 1996 and last updated on 24 November 1998.

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