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Summary

A new narrative history of the Viking Age, interwoven with exploration of the physical remains and landscapes that the Vikings fashioned and walked: their rune stones and ship burials, settlements and battlefields.

To many, the word Viking brings to mind red scenes of rape and pillage, of marauders from beyond the sea rampaging around the British coastline in the last gloomy centuries before the Norman Conquest. And it is true that Britain in the Viking Age was a turbulent, violent place. The kings and warlords who have impressed their memories on the period revel in names that fire the blood and stir the imagination: Svein Forkbeard and Edmund Ironside, Ivar the Boneless and Alfred the Great, Erik Bloodaxe and Edgar the Pacifier, amongst many others. Evidence for their brutality, their dominance, their avarice and their pride is still unearthed from British soil with stunning regularity.

This is not, however, the whole story.

In Viking Britain, Thomas Williams has drawn on his experience as project curator of the major international exhibition Vikings: Life and Legend to show how the people we call Vikings came not just to raid and plunder but to settle, to colonise and to rule. The impact on these islands was profound and enduring, shaping British social, cultural and political development for hundreds of years. Indeed, in language, literature, place names and folklore, the presence of Scandinavian settlers can still be felt, and their memory - filtered and refashioned through the writings of people like J. R. R. Tolkien, William Morris and G. K. Chesterton - has transformed the Western imagination.

This remarkable new audiobook draws upon new academic research and first-hand experience, drawing deeply from the relics and landscapes that the Vikings and their contemporaries fashioned and walked: their rune stones and ship burials, settlements and battlefields, poems and chronicles. The audiobook offers a vital evocation of a forgotten world, its echoes in later history and its implications for the present. It is a stunning exploration of Viking Britain by a writer of immense literary power.

©2017 Thomas Williams (P)2017 HarperCollins Publishers

What listeners say about Viking Britain

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  • Overall
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great listen

I loved this, it's such an in-depth look at the Viking era in Britain. And I mean all of Britain, too many books leave out Wales and Scotland which I always disliked.

10 people found this helpful

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Very good, can be easy to get lost

Very well written and researched book from an author who clearly loves the subject. He strives to make the point that the world of our past was a very real and human one, while simultaneously being completely alien in places. For example he’ll Introduce you to a wholesome Viking family celebration, filled with merriment and fun, sounding very much like a modern Christmas, until he casually points out the “torrent” of ritual animal blood “applied liberally to walls, floors, and guests.”

The only criticism I would have is that if my concentration strayed for as much as 20 seconds, it was easy to get entirely lost. I had to rewind frequently to keep up. It requires more concentration than most audiobooks so multi-tasking is inadvisable. However, I will not mark the book down for this as it’s more a guideline for the listener and not a fault of the author.

Overall a brilliant book from one of the most fascinating and misunderstood eras of British history.

10 people found this helpful

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My 2017 book of the year

Wonderfully personal and poetic exploration of the subtleties involved in conflict and assimilation that took place encounters between Scandinavian and Anglo Saxon peoples of the early medieval period.

8 people found this helpful

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Too much purple prose

A promising start when the author establishes he wants to challenge misconceptions about the Vikings. But he is too florid and what's worse, puts in scenes which he appears to have made up himself. Good narration nonetheless

6 people found this helpful

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Very extensive, Rich, imaginative and detaillier Account of the Subjekt

The Book itself is Great but it is a pity and this a criticism for Audible that the narrator had Not the raintest idea how to pronounce Anglo-Saxon or Old Norse. Striking is that he Rendered the Rune standing for th as p because it probably lookef as p to ihm sic!

2 people found this helpful

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An illuminating history of Viking Britain

This book really does give a multi level look at how the Vikings influenced Britain. Like many people I had a rather one-dimensional view of the Vikings and now my eyes have truly been opened. The author doesn't have all the answers due to the lack of historical documents but offers his interpretations and encourages the reader likewise. The book has a good flow and I heartily recommend it.

1 person found this helpful

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Fantastic book, highly recommended.

For anyone reviewing this book, please ignore the ridiculous comments about how the author dislikes vikings. The author takes a completely objective stance as he critically analyses the cultural and social influence of old norse people across globalised modern society. A must read for any intellectual reader of norse history.

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Throughly Enjoyable

A brilliant dive into the Viking history. Full of learning and knowledge without ever getting boring.

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Wonderful book

Loved the book and narrator. William's is a master of his subject and writes with passion.

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Worth it

Great book, entertaining and well read. Perhaps more Britain in the Viking period than exclusively a look at Vikings themselves.

Also reassuring to know even centuries ago Britain was South East-centric.