I am still working through Viking Britain by Thomas Williams. His prose is excellent and his knowledge just oozes off the page. I think what got my respect straight away was the confession that Viking history is a live topic with new finds coming to light all the time. His book is not, and is not intended to be, definitive. But it certainly has authority.
Chapter one, like most Viking books, jumps straight into histography. I love this topic but I don’t intend to bore you with it, you can do that for yourself on the Histography page (when I create it). The debate is how to present the Vikings or more accurately where the focus of the narrative should be. Should it be on pillage, slaughter and rampage? Or on cultural achievements, art and discovery? Dark Age or age of light? Williams argues that by focusing on swords, war and exciting raids on terrified monks we reduce the Vikings into cartoon characters.
I think he has a point but I am collector of books and have been following Viking Histography for many years. There does seem to be a cycle of revisionism between the “cultural achievements” and the “vicious Vikings” schools. The reason for this, as I said above, is that the Vikings are a live historical topic and if I may add one last point before I get back to my books, the archaeology is ambitious and the written sources partisan. Perfect environment for a variety of interpretations.