Women in the Viking Age

Judith Jesch

239 Blz., ISBN 978 0 85115 360 5     
The Boydell Press, 1991 - 2001     

´Well-illustrated, closely argued and fascinating.´ - Guardian
´A coherent, tangible and convincing picture of the age as a whole.´ - History

Viking studies have always concentrated 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.
The evidence for the lives of viking woman is fragementary: Judith Jesch assembles the clues provided by archaeology, runic inscriptions, place names and personal names, foreign historical sources, art history, and Old Norse literature and mythology. These sources illuminate different aspects of women´s lives in the Viking Age, on the farms and in the trading centres of Scandinavia, abroad on viking expeditions, and as settlers in places such as Iceland or the British Isles. Archaeological evidence brings us into close physical contact with Viking Age women, their dress, work and daily life; runic inscriptions and literary texts allow us to hear the authentic voice of women. However, much of what can be found out about women in the Viking Age comes to us through the eyes of men, in history, art, myth and literature, so the book also investigates how women were seen by their male contemporaries in Scandinavia and in the countries affected by viking activity, and the author shows how the romantic myths of medieval Icelandic literature have been responsible for modern views of viking women. Women in the Viking Age explores an unfamiliar aspect of medieval history, and offers a new perspective on viking society, very different from the traditional image of a violent and male-dominated world.

Dr. Judith Jesch lectures in Viking Studies in the Department of English Studies, University of Nottingham. Het publications include articles on Old Norse literature and runic inscriptions.

Jacket illustration: Detail of a gilt-bronze oval brooch from Ågerup, Sjælland, Denmark, showing a female head (Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen).

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