Baltic History I
The Vikings and the Hanseatic League

500 – 1066

Recommended Reading

Non Fiction and Biography

The Vikings were obsessed with dying good deaths, and this book delves into just why that was.  Was it the drive to join the mighty in Valhalla?  To ensure that those who came after had respect for a life well-lived?  And was it this obsession that drove the Vikings to conquer much of Europe? Tom Shippey explores these issues and much more besides.  This is a fantastic insight into the Viking mindset.

This richly illustrated collection of essays by leading scholars examines the Viking era, way of life, achievements and legacy from different angles.  An excellent primer that is both informative and entertaining.

Neil Oliver delves into new research and archeology to reexamine and challenge traditional assumptions about the Viking world.  A refreshing and engrossing study for Viking enthusiasts.

Could you be a Viking?  This race of intrepid marauders was also highly adept at integrating into the societies that they terrorized, ultimately adopting the habits, religion, language, and names of their adopted homelands.  This is a highly acclaimed look at this phenomenon.

Ibn Fadlan’s account of his trip to the Volga, or “The Land of Darkness” is one of the more compelling and entertaining accounts we have of the Viking traders.

Lars Brownworth’s highly readable account of the Vikings seeks to go beyond the myriad of stereotypes about Vikings and look at the laws they made and the stories they told.

Travelers rely on DK Eyewitness guide books for accurate and accessible information.  They bring these strengths to this comprehensive story of the Vikings and their world.  This is a marvelous pick for a young adult discovering the fascinating world of the Vikings.

The Vikings didn’t go on violent raids every day.  They had homes and families and farms.  This appealing book dives into that everyday life, pulling together interesting facts about how the Vikings lived their lives.

Yale historian Anders Winroth’s highly readable primer on the Vikings and their age.  If you are looking for a good starter book on Viking society, economy, religion, culture and warfare, look no further.

An excellent account of the arc of the Viking age from raiders to traders, pagan to Christians, marginalized to integrated.  This is a thorough and enjoyable read that gives an excellent overview of the sweep of Viking history.

The magnificence of Viking weaponry, tools, and longships is beautifully chronicled in this delightfully illustrated guide.  A wonderful gift for a teenager just discovering the Vikings or a life long fan.

Without the Viking longship, the Viking empire would not have been feasible or possible.  This authoritative study of this maritime phenomenon from the British Museum draws on information from the Roskilde 6 ship from Denmark.  An excellent introduction and detailed and informative book on this fascinating topic.

The multi-faceted Neil Gaiman turns his talent to the rich trove of Norse mythology.  The result is this incredibly engaging, eminently readable new interpretation of the classic stories of Thor, Odin, Loki, Freya, and the gods and goddesses of Aesnar.

Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough journeys to the actual geographic settings of the mythical Icelandic sagas — the best and most vivid account we have of Viking history.

Noted historian Tom Holland considers the pervading fear of the End of Times, which gripped the known world in the approach to the millennium.  The terrifying Viking raids were seen as a sign of this impending doom.  But when the world didn’t end, both the Christian and pagan worlds had to come to a better understanding of each other.  This is a fascinating study into the mindset of the early medieval European.

Anders Winroth of Yale University considers the conversion to Christianity by the Vikings in a new context, examining the political and economic implications withim the wider framework of European history.

An excellent study of the important movements in trade and commerce in Medieval Europe, including a detailed and informative look at the Hansa.

This recent study of the history of the Baltic States examines the significance and legacy of the Hansa in detail.  Highly recommended!

Michael Pye’s exploration of the people and politics of the North Sea is an engrossing read — his narrative style is addictive and he delves into topics that are not ocovered in detail in other studies of the region. Highly recommended as is the audio version.

This brilliantly-illustrated coffee table book is out of print, but available via second-hand dealers.  For those looking for a more in-depth study of the Hansa, this is the best. The chapters cover life in the Hansa towns, guilds, art of the age, shipping, laws, and commerce.  A treasure trove of information about the Hansa.


The Sagas of the Icelanders

Penguin Classics’ authoritative translation of the Sagas of the Icelanders.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s English translation of the Norse tales of Sigurd the Völsung and The Fall of the Niflungs. 

Nancy Marie Brown delves into the fascinating life of Snorri Sturluson, the 13th-century politician, diplomat, writer, and visionary, who is responsible for the preservation of the epic sagas of the Norsemen.

The thrilling tale of Gudrid — a Viking woman who sailed to North America — has long been considered a mere legend.  But modern-day archeologists aren’t so sure.  This is a fascinating story of the meeting of legend and exploration.

Watch, Listen, Learn, and Enjoy

Audio recordings, podcasts, lecture series, TV series, and films

Professor Michael Dout’s audio course is a wonderful journey inside the culture and society of the Vikings. Professor Drout’s passion for his material shines through in this delightful course that delves into the culture of the Vikings, including a detailed look at the Saga literature.  A must listen!

Professor Kenneth W. Hart’s comprehensive history of the Viking Era for The Great Courses looks at the different regional areas where Viking raids led to settlements and later kingdoms.  Professor Hart examines weaponry, shipbuilding, religion, home life, and other aspects of Viking life.

Lucy Catherine’s bold retelling of the Saga of Gudrun is performed to perfection for the BBC Radio Drama series.

Neil Oliver’s fresh look at Viking History is masterfully narrated by James Gillies in this unabridged audio recording.

An hour-long exploration of King Alfred’s defeat of the Viking forces at the Battle of Edington by Melvyn Bragg and his guests.

An hour-long discussion of King Athelstan with Melvyn Bragg and his guests.

An hour-long discussion of the Battle of Stamford Bridge — the hard-fought battle between English forces and Vikings, which so weakened the English that they were easily defeated three weeks later by the Normans at the Battle of Hastings.

An hour-long discussion of the Norse Gods with Melvyn Bragg and his guests.

An hour-long exploration of The Volga Vikings, who plied the mighty river along the North-South trade route to Byzantium by Melvyn Bragg and his guests.

An hour-long discussion of The Icelandic Sagas with Melvyn Bragg and his guests.

Noah Tetzner brings passion and drive to this expansive, multi-season podcast, dedicated to the Lost History of the Vikings.  With mini-series within the podcast about different topics, interviews with eminent scholars, and news of new archeological discoveries, this one podcast has it all!  I always learn something from these episodes!

Michael Hirst’s blockbuster series is based on the Saga of Ragnar Lothbrok and his sons from the classic Icelandic Sagas.  This series is well researched and thoroughly enjoyable though viewer discretion is advised because the subject matter does inherently contain a good deal of violence.

Thank you for your interest!

I hope you find that these suggestions help you continue to explore the history of the Baltics.  If you feel there is something missing, I do hope you will email me and let me know: these pages are a work in constant progress, and I try to keep them as current as possible.

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Below, you will find some of my travel writing about this and other destinations.

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