The Vikings at Home:
The History and Culture of Scandinavia (800-1066)
with Dr Elizabeth Ashman Rowe (University of Cambridge)
at Sutton Hoo, Saturday, 7th February, 2015.


The world of the Vikings was complex and involved far more than raiding. We shall explore key developments of the Viking Age through runic inscriptions, myths, poetry, sagas, and first-hand accounts of encounters with the Vikings. Our main focus will be on the Scandinavian homelands of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, as well as some of their most notable expeditions abroad for trading as well as raiding.

Provisional Programme

09.50 – 10.15:         Coffee on arrival

10.15 – 11.15:         Causes of the Viking raids – We will look at the historical and cultural factors that impelled the Vikings to loot and plunder, and we will consider some Old Norse myths and runic monuments that preserve the Vikings’ own words and ideas.

11.15 – 11.40:         Coffee break

11.40 – 12.40:         Trading, raiding, towns, and law – This session will delve into some of the fundamental paradoxes of Viking society. Excerpts from Icelandic sagas and Arabic travelogues fill out the picture with sometimes gruesome details.

12.40 – 13.45:         Lunch break

13.45 – 14.35:         The development of Scandinavian kingdoms – The political organization of the Viking homelands evolved steadily over the course of the Viking Age. Contemporary court poetry illustrates the relationship between kings and the warriors who served them and demonstrates the personal bonds that enabled Scandinavian rulers to govern effectively without officials or councilors.

14.35 – 14.55:        Tea break

14.55 – 15.45:         The coming of Christianity – Contrary to what their victims hoped, the conversion of Scandinavia did not put an end to the Viking raids. What did it take to make the Vikings Christians, and to what extent did this change them?

c.15.45:                   Thanks and Close

Some Suggestions for Optional Background Reading

Sawyer, P., The Oxford Illustrated History of the Vikings (Oxford University Press, 1997)

Haywood, J. The Penguin Atlas of the Vikings (Penguin, 1995)

Stone, C., and Lunde, P., Ibn Fadlan and the land of darkness: Arab travelers in the far north (Penguin Classics, 2012)

Page, R.I., Chronicles of the Vikings: Records, memorials, and myths (British Museum Press, 1995)

Page, R.I., Runes (British Museum Press, 1987)

Scudder, B., trans., Egil’s saga (Penguin, 2004)

Graham-Campbell, J., Viking Art (Thames and Hudson, 2013)

Larrington, C., trans., The Poetic Edda (Oxford University Press, 2014)

Snorri Sturluson, Edda, trans. A. Faulkes (J.M. Dent, 1995)


About Dr Elizabeth Ashman Rowe

Elizabeth Ashman Rowe is Reader in Scandinavian History in the Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic at the University of Cambridge, where she teaches Viking history and Scandinavian palaeography. Her research interests extend into Old Norse literature and medieval Scandinavian history, including medieval Icelandic manuscripts. The connections between Ireland and Iceland are a particular focus, and she recently led a group of postgraduate students on a project publicizing Viking Age Dublin. The author of two books and many articles and encyclopedia entries, she has been a guest on BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time three times, discussing the Volga Vikings, the Battle of Stamford Bridge, and the Icelandic sagas.