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Book Review: The Vikings

Culture change is hard.

I’m sure if you clicked on the link, you expected me to go into detail about the funny helmets and the wonton killing and whatnot.  Sorry to disappoint.  The biggest thing I took away from the book as a marketer is that culture change is hard.

Robert Ferguson’s “The Vikings: a History” focuses on the years from the late 7th century to the early 12th century, when bands of warrior-traders fanned out from Denmark, Sweden and Norway on raids and conquests.  I read the book because of this recent find of a potential Viking settlement in Newfoundland.  I’d always wondered how the hell Scandinavians made it to North America and menaced Sicily in roughly the same time frame.


Someone’s about to have a bad day

Turns out the Vikings ranged even further than I had thought.  In addition to the short-term excursions to North America a half-millennium before that Genoan fellow‘s travels, the Vikings also:

  • Sailed up the Seine to attack Paris and later conquered northwestern France (hence, “Normandy” for the Norsemen)
  • Conquered a large chunks of Ireland and Britain as well a bunch of those islands where they make Scotch
  • Founded Iceland
  • Colonized Greenland, where they first encountered Native Americans
  • Sailed across the Baltic, portaged boats to the Dnieper River and founded Russia in Kiev
  • Continued south down the Dnieper to the Black Sea and traded with the Byzantine Empire
  • Also traded with Arabs, as evinced by hoards of Arab-minted coins found in Scandinavia

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