Viking Age Iceland

Viking Age Iceland

Paperback Penguin History

By (author) Jesse L. Byock

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  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
  • Format: Paperback | 480 pages
  • Dimensions: 122mm x 196mm x 25mm | 272g
  • Publication date: 1 September 2001
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0140291156
  • ISBN 13: 9780140291155
  • Illustrations note: maps, plans
  • Sales rank: 154,394

Product description

Medieval Iceland was unique amongst Western Europe, with no foreign policy, no defense forces, no king, no lords, no peasants and few battles. It should have been a utopia yet its literature is dominated by brutality and killing. The reasons for this, argues Jesse Byock, lie in the underlying structures and cultural codes of the islands' social order. "Viking Age Iceland" is an engaging, multi-disciplinary work bringing together findings in anthropology and ethnography interwoven with historical fact and masterful insights into the popular Icelandic sagas, this is a brilliant reconstruction of the inner workings of a unique and intriguing society.

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Author information

Jesse Byock is Director of Norse Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. Educated at Harvard, the Sorbonne, Georgetown University Law School, the Universities of Iceland and Lund, he is also a member of UCLA's archaeology, folklore and Indo-European faculties. His books include 'Feud in the Icelandic Saga'; 'Medieval Iceland Society, Sagas and Power', a translation of 'The Saga of the Volsungs: The Norse Epic of Sigurd the Dragon Slayer'

Review quote

"Byock brings several disciplines to his work, crossing the boundaries between history, literature, law, and archaeology. This well-written book takes up a wide variety of subjects, including the social fabric, domestic realities, cultural codes, politics and legal infrastructures, and the mechanisms that defused conflicts among the fiercely independent early Icelanders." --Viking Heritage Magazine "A vital and original reinterpretation both of the sagas and of the society which created them. Byock's book is an essential guide at once to living conditions and to mentalities."--The London Review of Books

Table of contents

An immigrant society; resources and subsistence - life on a northern island; curdled milk and calamities - an inward-looking farming society; a devolving and evolving social order; the founding of a new society and the historical sources; limitations on a chieftain's ambitions, and strategies; chietfain-thingmen relationships and advocacy; the family and Sturlunga sagas -mediaeval narratives; the legislative and judicial system; systems of power - advocates, friendship and family; aspects of blood feud; feud and vendetta in a "great village" community; friendship, blood feud and power - "the saga of the people of weapon's fjord"; the obvious sources of wealth; lucrative sources of wealth for chieftains; a peaceful conversion - the Viking age church; "Gragas" - the "grey goose" law; bishops and secular authority - the later church; big chieftains, big farmers and their sagas at the end of the free state; appendix 1 - the law-speakers; appendix 2 - bishops during the free state; appendix 3 -turf construction; appendix 4 - a woman who travelled from Vinland to Rome.