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Women in the Viking Age

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Viking studies have always concentrate on male vikings, the Scandinavian warriors and merchants who emerged on the European scene in the late 8th century. This is the first book-length study in English to investigate what women did in the Viking age, both at home in Scandinavia and in the Viking colonies from Greenland to Russia. [Text taken from the back cover of the book Viking studies have always concentrate on male vikings, the Scandinavian warriors and merchants who emerged on the European scene in the late 8th century. This is the first book-length study in English to investigate what women did in the Viking age, both at home in Scandinavia and in the Viking colonies from Greenland to Russia. [Text taken from the back cover of the book]


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Viking studies have always concentrate on male vikings, the Scandinavian warriors and merchants who emerged on the European scene in the late 8th century. This is the first book-length study in English to investigate what women did in the Viking age, both at home in Scandinavia and in the Viking colonies from Greenland to Russia. [Text taken from the back cover of the book Viking studies have always concentrate on male vikings, the Scandinavian warriors and merchants who emerged on the European scene in the late 8th century. This is the first book-length study in English to investigate what women did in the Viking age, both at home in Scandinavia and in the Viking colonies from Greenland to Russia. [Text taken from the back cover of the book]

30 review for Women in the Viking Age

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ida Ottesen

    I've been wanting to learn more about this topic for a while now, and seeing as I kept reading so many conflicting articles on line, I thought I would give this book a go. It's from the 1990s and clearly the field has expanded since then, but by 90s standards, I would say this is probably s good and thorough account. My problem is, that it seems to make a statement, then say 'we don't have enough evidence, so we can't possibly know for sure' and then continue on to settle the arguement, without pr I've been wanting to learn more about this topic for a while now, and seeing as I kept reading so many conflicting articles on line, I thought I would give this book a go. It's from the 1990s and clearly the field has expanded since then, but by 90s standards, I would say this is probably s good and thorough account. My problem is, that it seems to make a statement, then say 'we don't have enough evidence, so we can't possibly know for sure' and then continue on to settle the arguement, without providing any compelling evidence, except 'we must assume this is what it was like'. But if the book doesn't give me a reason or a well-presented argument as to why that is the case, I just don't believe it. This happens a little too often for my taste. The book goes down many different routes (archaeological, runes, written sources, art, etc), but it just doesn't seem like there's enough to actually make a case on, and sometimes Jesch goes out on a tangent, where it's difficult to see the relevance to the main subject, i.e. women in the Viking age. The only thing I learned from this book, was that the evidence is scarce and we just don't know. Which is fine, but I would have preferred not to learn it in over 230 pages (in short, this book could have been way shorter).

  2. 4 out of 5

    Melanie Unruh

    Jesch seeks to illuminate the lives and roles of women in an era in which so much is said about the exploits of the men that the women seem to be an afterthought. She notes a surprising number of cases of women making appearancese in Viking-era culture, and based upon a wide swath of what little we do know, is able to make a number of educated deductions about the importance and role of women. She looks critically as sources such as the Sagas (which are post Viking-era) and grave finds, which pr Jesch seeks to illuminate the lives and roles of women in an era in which so much is said about the exploits of the men that the women seem to be an afterthought. She notes a surprising number of cases of women making appearancese in Viking-era culture, and based upon a wide swath of what little we do know, is able to make a number of educated deductions about the importance and role of women. She looks critically as sources such as the Sagas (which are post Viking-era) and grave finds, which provide tantalizing if incomplete or biased clues, and extrapolating what is likely to be our most accurate picture of the lives of Norse women to date. Of course, as in most Viking-era studies, what little we know leads to more questions than answers, and she is careful to provide caveats to her conclusions. Still, one can get an overall picture of the cultures generally termed "Viking", and from a perspective that, in being different from the typical politica/martial, reveals more about the private lives and social structure of the Viking peoples.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Anita Fajita Pita

    2.5 Although the material is interesting, the delivery ranges from dubious story-telling to bland academia so much that it's hard to actually be able to sink into. The author alternates between telling a fictionalized story of Hervor, the name and life story that she assigns a set of bones dug up in an archaeological dig in Birka. Through Hervor's story we learn facts about Viking life and historical timeline. This sounds interesting, and I suppose in the long run it really is. We learn about a f 2.5 Although the material is interesting, the delivery ranges from dubious story-telling to bland academia so much that it's hard to actually be able to sink into. The author alternates between telling a fictionalized story of Hervor, the name and life story that she assigns a set of bones dug up in an archaeological dig in Birka. Through Hervor's story we learn facts about Viking life and historical timeline. This sounds interesting, and I suppose in the long run it really is. We learn about a few specific women from history or sagas, and a lot about the men surrounding them. We learn a little too much detail about all aspects of weaving and fashion on the silk road and archery from horseback as Hervor travels all over the seas and land. And while I'll admit that yes this all sounds interesting, the format and delivery was off. Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a digital copy via Netgalley.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    This was ideal for my Medieval Europe class because it is so clear about the evidence for Vikings (thus providing a template for now we learn about lots of medieval history). The element of including women just added to the internet for them. It was one of the first books written on Viking women so reads a bit clunky the way scholarly writing demo the 80s and 90s often does. The chapters included are great in terms of themes and help dispel myths as well as teach us how to learn about the past.

  5. 5 out of 5

    J.D. Holman

    How often do you pick up a book about the Vikings and not find a single reference to women? Or maybe there will be a blonde in an apron-dress or, if you're really lucky, a sidebar discussing women in Viking society. This is an antidote to that problem. I want to see the evidence used in this book used far more often, for other books on the Vikings. Jesch has done well in compiling evidence from archeological finds, art, and literature to piece together what can be known about women in the Viking A How often do you pick up a book about the Vikings and not find a single reference to women? Or maybe there will be a blonde in an apron-dress or, if you're really lucky, a sidebar discussing women in Viking society. This is an antidote to that problem. I want to see the evidence used in this book used far more often, for other books on the Vikings. Jesch has done well in compiling evidence from archeological finds, art, and literature to piece together what can be known about women in the Viking Age. I enjoyed how the book was arranged, with the most solid evidence at the beginning. As a side note, it is so incredible how important burial sites are to understanding cultures. The bodies of long-dead people and what they were buried with have so much to share with researchers. Even cremains can give some insight, so long as they're buried or preserved and not just blown away in the wind. I do feel like some information is biased, either from the author herself or from the written sources she used. For example, the writings of an Arab in the Rus touched upon things that seem like he would not have had access to (the graphic killing of a slave woman for suttee comes to mind), and may have been colored with a desire to portray the Viking settlers in a negative light. Yet the author seems to treat this as truthful eyewitness recordings. I don't know, your mileage may vary on that sort of thing. (See also, she only used the negative saga account of Leif Eriksson's sister Freydis in Vinland, whereas I'm more familiar with the much more badass version used in the Saga Museum in Reykjavik.) In sum, this is an incredibly interesting book bringing together information about women from an era and culture that typically emphasizes only the male aspects.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Katherine Cowley

    I skimmed parts of this book. Very useful information on Viking women, and incredibly source based. It's actually organized by type of source, which in some ways made it less readable for the general reader, but potentially more useful for the historian. If I want to learn more in-depth about Viking women, I will come back to this book. I skimmed parts of this book. Very useful information on Viking women, and incredibly source based. It's actually organized by type of source, which in some ways made it less readable for the general reader, but potentially more useful for the historian. If I want to learn more in-depth about Viking women, I will come back to this book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Pilar

    The authoress has carried out, researching in different sources, a serious, thoroughly worked and critical study about women in the Viking Age, a male dominated world where war and violence were the priority.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Susan Abernethy

    Link to my review of this book: http://flhwnotesandreviews.com/2014/0... Link to my review of this book: http://flhwnotesandreviews.com/2014/0...

  9. 4 out of 5

    Pat MacEwen

    A little out of date at this point, 29 years later, but chockful of interesting snippets collected from several different fields of study, beginning with the archaeological evidence of what life was like for women in the Viking Age. This includes burials, but of course doesn't include some recent spectacular finds concerning Warrior Women. Then there's what may be found in the sagas and eddas, at least one of which seems likely to have been written by a woman and/or for a female audience. It's c A little out of date at this point, 29 years later, but chockful of interesting snippets collected from several different fields of study, beginning with the archaeological evidence of what life was like for women in the Viking Age. This includes burials, but of course doesn't include some recent spectacular finds concerning Warrior Women. Then there's what may be found in the sagas and eddas, at least one of which seems likely to have been written by a woman and/or for a female audience. It's clear enough that there were women poets, and evidence of women's activities in skaldic verse. The author also gives us a wide array of the views of outsiders on the subject of Viking women, and the final chapter is all about tales of warrior women told by both the Scandinavians and outsiders. Nicely detailed on what women wore, what others thought of it, what households were like, and of course it covers a favorite Vinland episode involving Leif Erickson's little sister and what she is said to have done that might have ended the Norse exploration of the New World altogether, due to her brother's embarrassment!

  10. 5 out of 5

    J.

    Well-written and well-formatted, this book is a fantastic look into the available information related to women in the Viking Age. It is cogent and concise and delivers bit after bit of evidence without wasting a word on fluff or filler. She doesn't speculate wildly or make unscientific conclusions and sticks to the facts and reasonable consensus. Throughout the chapters are also images of interesting artifacts such as jewelry and gravestones. I can't think of anything I would change about the tex Well-written and well-formatted, this book is a fantastic look into the available information related to women in the Viking Age. It is cogent and concise and delivers bit after bit of evidence without wasting a word on fluff or filler. She doesn't speculate wildly or make unscientific conclusions and sticks to the facts and reasonable consensus. Throughout the chapters are also images of interesting artifacts such as jewelry and gravestones. I can't think of anything I would change about the text. My only comment to potential readers is that, while Jesch does an amazing job of giving you enough information to comprehend everything she discusses, she can't describe it all in encyclopedic detail. So, if you are a neophyte to Viking history, this book will leave you hungry to read more!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Literary

    I will give this 3 stars on account of the information given and the extensive bibliography, which showed me just how much research Jesch put into her book. But other than that? My god, I was SO. BORED. This is just how I learn, but I need a person to get to the damn point. I can only read so much about archaeological findings. I need the bottom line. I know she was treating this like a giant essay and really needed to provide evidence. I commend that. But what I got out of this was essentially I will give this 3 stars on account of the information given and the extensive bibliography, which showed me just how much research Jesch put into her book. But other than that? My god, I was SO. BORED. This is just how I learn, but I need a person to get to the damn point. I can only read so much about archaeological findings. I need the bottom line. I know she was treating this like a giant essay and really needed to provide evidence. I commend that. But what I got out of this was essentially just a fancier version of the stuff I could have found on wiki. At least this was peer-reviewed, though. ... I think.

  12. 5 out of 5

    B.A. Wilson

    I confess that I skimmed this, rather than reading the full book, as it's very dense. But it was very interesting and useful to my research. I would revisit this, if I needed more information, though I believe I would stick with skimming or just reading the sections of interest, as it's a lot to take in. I confess that I skimmed this, rather than reading the full book, as it's very dense. But it was very interesting and useful to my research. I would revisit this, if I needed more information, though I believe I would stick with skimming or just reading the sections of interest, as it's a lot to take in.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lorraine

    Perhaps not super approachable for the general read, this book is formidable for the academically inclined. There is no narrative, it is an overview of the evidence and the substantiated speculation by field.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Insightful historical account of gender studies in the viking age

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jess

    Always love books about women but this one is 20 years old and is dated.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Frédéric Robidoux-Hétu

    Very interesting book about women in viking culture. I recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about viking culture in general.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mary Catelli

    Scandinavian women, to be sure. Occasional other women, but only when they ended up, usually as slaves, in Scandinavian society. And what it is organized about is the evidence. Archeological evidence, and grave goods. The only grave good that is unisex is blacksmithing tools -- male only -- but women are much more likely to have weaving tools, and much less likely to weapons. Runic texts. Mostly memorial stones, erected to women, erected by women -- it appears they were often raised to establish s Scandinavian women, to be sure. Occasional other women, but only when they ended up, usually as slaves, in Scandinavian society. And what it is organized about is the evidence. Archeological evidence, and grave goods. The only grave good that is unisex is blacksmithing tools -- male only -- but women are much more likely to have weaving tools, and much less likely to weapons. Runic texts. Mostly memorial stones, erected to women, erected by women -- it appears they were often raised to establish some claim to property by the heir's raising one. Some evidence about colonization. Place names with Scandinavian women's names as elements can point that way, or by their scarcity point the other. Foreign texts, which may or may not be contemporary to the times. Scandinavian texts, which certainly aren't, but which sometimes have some reason to believe are handed down, and may include some hints. Full of fascinating stuff.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ceilidh

    Wish I could have give this 4.5 stars. I think the only thing holding it back from a full 5 was the more than 20 years since its printing. Would love to see what she'd write now. Wish I could have give this 4.5 stars. I think the only thing holding it back from a full 5 was the more than 20 years since its printing. Would love to see what she'd write now.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jill

  20. 4 out of 5

    Cat Heath

  21. 4 out of 5

    Keegan Flavio

  22. 5 out of 5

    Clarissa

  23. 4 out of 5

    Vendel Crow

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kourinthia

  25. 5 out of 5

    Paul Ranson

  26. 5 out of 5

    Paul Michael

  27. 4 out of 5

    Miranda

  28. 4 out of 5

    Marcy

  29. 4 out of 5

    Grace Murray

  30. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

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