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Viking Ethnicities: A Historiographic Overview



The ‘Viking Age’ is well established in popular perception as a period of dramatic change in European history. The range of viking activities from North America to the Middle East has excited the interest of many commentators. Vikings are variously regarded as blood thirsty barbarians or civilised entrepreneurs; founders of nations or anarchic enemies. But how cohesive was the identity of the ‘Vikings’ and how did they see themselves? In recent years the answer to this question has been evaluated from a range of perspectives. Established paradigms (often situated within a nationalist framework of thought) have come under greater scrutiny and new ideas have entered the debate. This paper will review some trends in the historiography of viking ethnicities and cultural identities in the period 800–1000 AD. This overview also highlights the value of comparative analysis of human migrations to the field of Viking Studies.