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The Vikings Imogen Corrigan Thursday 15 November 2018


Vikings Study Day - Booking opens on 11 October; forms will be available on the website from the afternoon of 10 October.  

    We will begin by considering the Vikings in general terms and how we know about them: history is usually written by the winners, but not in this instance. What sort of people were they, where did they come from and what was their society like? The first raid on Britain was at Lindisfarne in June 793, although this was by no means the first contact. This shocking event triggered a response from Charlemagne which would shape future raids, and it signalled the start of 22 decades of sporadic warfare.

    The main events of the First and Second Viking Ages will be discussed, not least why they renewed their attacks in the later C10th.


    Vikings are known for their fearsome reputation, but they almost fade into insignificance when compared to their cousins who were mainly from the areas we know as Sweden and Finland today. These Vikings went eastwards and are known as the Rus (from which we get the name: Russia). The first records of them date to 839, after which there are several eye-witness accounts. They were remarkable in their appearance, had bizarre funeral rites and were excessively violent.

    Every year the Rus traded down-rivers to Constantinople where they were all-but corralled and where Byzantine emperors either constrained them, fighting them with Greek Fire, or co-opted them to act as their personal warriors. Their story is also remarkable, not least that of the last great old-school Viking queen, Olga whose myth has been almost inextricably entangled with her history. Perhaps surprisingly, it is in these eastern Vikings that the Russian Orthodox Church has its foundation.


    Lastly, the study day will move into the slightly calmer waters of Viking art, myth and culture. Numerous words in modern English hail from the Viking languages, as do some turns of speech. Their religious beliefs were multi-layered and seem to have been similar across the Viking world, as were their myths and their art. Viking art may be surprisingly delicate to those unfamiliar with it. Naturally artistic styles developed over the centuries and there will only be time to consider it in a general sense, but it is characterised by daintiness and complex design, exquisitely rendered. It impacted on religious art in our churches and manuscripts up to approximately AD1200.

The SID will be in the Bevan Room and will be presented by Imogen Corrigan.  It will start as usual at 9.55.