Robert Portass
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Vikings and the ‘Age of Iron’ in the North Sea
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This chapter begins with an extended discussion of what it means to speak of ‘vikings’, arguing in favour of the term being used in the lower case as a designation of a particular occupation, not as a catch-all ethnic label. It considers the associated issues with the source material: the absence of early medieval Scandinavian written texts, which requires a reliance on external perceptions of the vikings recorded in non-Scandinavian sources. After these prolegomena, it considers the evidence for social-political organization in Scandinavia and in areas of Scandinavian settlement, notably in the British Isles. It examines the question of the assimilation and/or acculturation of these new settlers, and the formation of regional identities among them. Finally, it considers the material evidence of pagan religiosity and of the gradual Christianization of viking Scandinavia.

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Debating medieval Europe

The early Middle Ages, c. 450 –c. 1050



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