One of the absolute best reads about the Viking Age is the book “THE VIKINGS” (also called “The Hammer and the Cross: A New History of the Vikings” in the UK) written by author Robert Ferguson.
I was very pleased to find this well-documented book that put the Viking Age in perspective, especially after reading book after book that seemed more like anti-Viking propaganda than realistic historical accounts of this exciting period of history. A major strength of this account of Vikings and the Viking Age, is that Robert writes about the incredible history of the Vikings, the many cultural, political and religious reasons for the emergence of the Viking Age, and the world wide effects of the Vikings, in such a way that is not only easy to understand, but also an exciting read.
Most people have had a limited picture of Vikings, who for several centuries were described as savage brutes, raiding and raping their way across Europe. This is not surprising, as the only accounts of Vikings were written by members of the church. What set Robert’s book apart from most, is that he gives us an understanding of how rich the Viking / Norse culture was, and how much of other cultures were influenced and enriched by the Vikings. Not only does Robert give an impressive overview of the Viking Age, he tells the histories of great warriors and kings and provides faultless accounts of Viking battles without romanticizing or de-emphasizing the violence.
A few years ago I had the pleasure to interview Robert Ferguson at Frogner Park in Oslo. As we walked in this park full of amazing statues, Robert answered unhesitatingly all of my questions long after the allotted time we had agreed on. He told me that whilst doing research on the Viking period for his book Siste kjærlighet, he inversed himself into Viking history, which led to him wanting to tell the story of the Viking Age as a continuous narrative. With the book “Vikings”, Robert manages to satisfy the curiosity of the smart general reader and place the Viking Age in the scale of European history with grand style.
I highly recommend Robert’s book, which is so good and has been so well received, that the producers of the TV series “VIKINGS” used it when developing the series and in pre-production. The series creator used Robert’s narrative structure, particularly in the first series, and recommends this book for anyone with a further interest in the Vikings. The Vikings TV series logo is printed on US paperback editions of Robert’s book, along with this endorsement: 'A comprehensive and thrilling history of the Vikings for fans of the History Channel series, now on its fourth season'.
Robert had never any other ambition than that of being a writer, and after emigrating to Norway from the UK, his first book, a biography of the Norwegian novelist Knut Hamsun, was published. Since then, Robert has written biographies about Henrik Ibsen and T.E.Hulme, the novels “Siste kjærlighet” (Last love) based on the Saga of Hallfred the Troublesome Poet, and “Fleetwood”, about fatherhood in England in the late 1960s. Robert has also written plays for Norwegian radio, RTE Dublin and the BBC, as well as translations and adaptations.
Robert has a new book out called “Scandinavians: in search of the soul of the north” (on sale in the US this summer). “Scandinavians” is a sort of personal memoir, among other things, and I look forward to reading it at a cottage in the Norwegian Alps next week. As I’ll be going to Oslo soon, I’ll try and get Robert to sign the book for me over a coffee.
For more info about Robert Ferguson and his work: http://robertferguson.org/
Robert Ferguson was gracious enough to write the foreword to the HÁVAMÁL book I co-authored: