New Course in European History

"Reframing the Viking Age (750-1000)"
  • Tola had this stone raised for his son Harald, Yngvar's brother.
  • Like men they journeyed for distant gold
  • And in the East they fed the eagle
  • In the south they died, in Serkland.

                                                              Viking runic epitaph from Gripsholm, Södermanland, Sweden 

Scholars working across a range of fields and disciplines have transformed the ways in which we understand the so-called ‘Viking Age’, the period c. CE 750 to 1000 during which ‘the silver seekers from the North’, travelled, traded, raided and transformed the world around them. This course explores these developments and the current state of Viking studies. It is intended to introduce upper-level undergraduates with the relevant background of prior study and preparation and pre-ABD graduate students in History  - and other related disciplines - to these developments and to the current state of Viking studies.

It is not intended as a general introduction to the period and it is not suitable for students lacking demonstrable experience of studying the history of the period. [HIEU 2061 is an introductory class covering this period.] Prerequisite class experience for undergraduates may include, but is not limited to: HIEU 3131; HIEU 3141, HIME 4511 (‘Medieval Sicily’).

Entry is by instructor permission only.

This course has a strong interdisciplinary approach. Class members will engage with archaeological, anthropological and epigraphic approaches to the Viking world, as well as reading primary sources and substantial secondary scholarship. Focus will fall upon questions of methodology, source analysis and the processes of historical modelling and interpretation. Connectivity will be a central issue of the class as we explore a Viking world that stretches from the Atlantic seaboard to Central Asia through complex networks of land, sea and river routes. In addition to exploring Scandinavian and north-western European societies (the British Isles, the Frankish world, the Saami)  the class will look at less frequently studied groups: Frisians, Khazars, Samanids and others involved in the complex and transformative processes of movement and exchange. Reframing the Viking Age demands engagement on a range of scales from micro-studies  - of individual texts, the archaeology of particular sites - to the exploration of the economic systems of early medieval western Eurasia that linked Khorasan to the Baltic and the North Sea.

In addition to participating in ongoing class discussion and providing critical leadership on specific works or issues through pre-circulated questions and textual commentaries students are required to post weekly commentary on the course WORDPRESS blog  and  write a 7000 word research paper a subject arising from the class. 

Reading will average around 175-275 pages per week, rarely less, occasionally more.

This class cannot be taken for C/NC.

Assigned books for Fall 2015 may include:

  • Anders Winroth, The Conversion of Scandinavia: Vikings, Merchants, and Missionaries in the Remaking of Northern Europe (Yale, 2014).
  • Ibn Fadlan and the Land of Darkness: Arab Travellers in the Far North, Paul Lunde and Caroline Stone, translators (Penguin, 2012).
  • Stefan Brink and Neil Price, The Viking World (Routledge, 2011).

Corcoran Department of History
University of Virginia
Nau Hall - South Lawn
Charlottesville, VA 22904


(434) 924-7147
(434) 924-7891
M-F 8am to 4:30pm
Department Contacts