Review: North Men (The Viking Saga 793 – 1241) – John Haywood

North Men John HaywoodMy version:
Non Fiction
Head of Zeus
First published: 2015

From the cover:

The violent and predatory society of Dark Age Scandinavia left a unique impact on the history of medieval Europe. Norse warriors, explorers and merchants raided, traded and settled across wide areas of Europe, Asia and the North Atlantic from the late eighth to the mid-eleventh century.

In 800, the Scandinavians were barbarians in longships bent on plunder and taping. By 1200, their homelands were an integral part of Latin Christendom. John Heywood narrates, in an authoritative but compellingly readable fashion, the extraordinary story of the Viking Age.

img_6156Why read just one Viking book, when you can read half a dozen? Don’t they all say pretty much the same thing? Given that the Vikings existed ‘a very long time ago’ surely all that can be said about them, has been said? Well, yes. And no. Obviously – you don’t need me to tell you – there are good books about the Vikings and there are bad books about the Vikings. Some are more readable – for the average Joe like me – and some are deadly dull, but still very worthy. These days, books about The Vikings can’t be filled with just the latest finds – which will only ever nowadays alter our understanding of them in a minor way (unless they find a new site in the Americas I guess). So, from our point of view, the reader, and from the Publisher’s point of view, because they want us to go out and buy them – there has to be an angle.

“Tell me exactly why do we need another book about the Vikings, young man?”

“Well, I’m gonna do it differently…”

What this one does differently is…well, difficult to put a finger on. It’s well written, points made, points argued, points proved. It’s written pretty much chronologically, starting with the earliest known raids, to the final integrations into the different nation states – and other nation states. Along the way, there some new (to me) ways of looking at what we already knew. Maybe it’s that that sets it apart. And concise, not much time/space wasted. As regards the left a unique impact bit, I felt he was rather more negative regarding their impact, than that would suggest and what is clearly provable. I used to live near Wetherby, called a small stream, a beck, and liked going to the Yorkshire Dales, to name just three linguistic examples (you can go find out the what and the why of those).

But shouldn’t there be a North Women as well? Without North Women, there wouldn’t have been any North Men, I’m thinking.

Otherwise, a very fine addition to my Viking library and one that could well fit in yours as well.

You can buy North Men (The Viking Saga 793 – 1241) from

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