Review: Vikings in America – Graeme Davis

If you only read one book on Vikings this year…

Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Genre: Non Fiction, History, North America, Vikings
My version: Paperback
Birlinn Books

It was the Vikings, not Christopher Columbus, who made the first European discovery of America; it was the Vikings, not the Pilgrim Fathers who were the first European settlers in America. And it was probably the Vikings who first used the name America.

Around a thousand years ago, the Vikings crossed the North Atlantic and established their settlements on the American continent, yet today both Europe and America treat the Vikings as if no more than a curious footnote to their histories – as if they made just a handful of voyages with little impact. This book challenges this outdated view. We now know that the Vikings travelled widely in America, both on the east coast and in the high Arctic and Hudson Bay. Today, we realise that Viking presence in America lasted nearly five centuries, and its legacy inspired much of the post-Columbian exploration of North America.

Now that I’m living in Denmark, for some reason I’m finding the Viking period of history more and more interesting. Must be something in the air.

Anyway, I recently read this one. As it says on the cover, it is about the Vikings in America. About how they came to ‘discover’ America (via Scotland, Iceland, then Greenland), how they without doubt traded, explored and lived there for a hell of a lot longer than is generally thought, and how they may well have even given the (northern) continent its name.

The author certainly knows his stuff and approaches the topic form a wide variety of angles. From the theoretical, to the archeological, to the linguistic. It is bang up-to-date and mentions most of the most recent scientific, DNA research and theories.

It is in fact, the theoretical ideas he poses, that give the book a special edge. He poses questions, suggests ways forward for research and suggests ideas and areas that future scientists, archeologists and generations might explore and further confirm the ideas he puts forward. It really gives the book an extra something special and made me both misty-eyed imagining all possible scenarios – and desperate, not to say impatient, to find out more.

I can absolutely and thoroughly recommend this book to anyone with even a passing interest in the Viking period. I now want to find out more about their east-ward journeys into what is now Russia – a(nother) country named after them. Remarkable stuff.

The cover (designed by James Hutcheson) uses a photograph of The Sea Stallion (Danish: Havhinghesten), part of the Roskilde Ships Museum collection.

You can buy Vikings in America from Amazon

Related reviews on Speesh Reads:

The Vikings In America - Erik Wahlgren

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