The Vikings: life and legend

The Vale of York hoard (© The Trustees of the British Museum)

The Vale of York hoard (© The Trustees of the British Museum)

History, they say, is written by the winners, but most of what we know about the Vikings was recorded by their victims, who were usually Christian monks, and the monks were very sore losers. To them we owe the traditional picture of raping and pillaging marauders, as immortalized on screen by Einar, the one-eyed warrior portrayed by Kirk Douglas in Richard Fleischer’s 1958 epic, “The Vikings.” More recently, though, historians have insisted on a softer image of the Norsemen, stressing their activities as traders, explorers, craftsmen and shipbuilders, rather than as mere macho role models. One of the merits of the British Museum’s absorbing new exhibition, “Vikings: Life and Legend,” is that it maintains a judicious balance between these opposing viewpoints.

Read Nick Marlowe’s full review here

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