Tuesday, 6 May 2014

2014: Year of the Vikings - BBC History Magazine's Viking Day (Part 2/5)

My 2nd viking event for 2014 took place on Saturday the 15th March and was organised by the BBC History Magazine and simply called Viking Day - a day with 5 lectures given my experts, historians and archeologists on a wide range of aspects of viking culture and history. This also included Gareth Williams from the British Museum giving his lecture on Ships in the Viking Age which I had heard a month previously at the Jorvik Viking Festival

Sadly due to the unfortunate 5.30am get up and nearly 4 hours on a train, having on got back into my home town of Huddersfield at 10pm the previous night for a work related event in London I was slightly too tired to consider the idea that I might need pen and paper to take notes during the lectures.

So the following thoughts and comments regarding each of them are based purely on memory and a memory that isn't always reliable- although I do remember meeting a certain young favourite viking author of mine - Mr Giles Kristian (his new Viking book 'God of Vengeance' is OUT NOW in beautiful hardback - click the title to see my full review). It was in fact Giles himself mentioning this even on Facebook which made me aware of it so you could say my very long train journey is all his fault hehehe. I joke, I joke.

Janina Ramirez

Talk: The Vikings as ‘Other’: Are ‘They’ In Fact ‘Us’?
Janina will consider what we know about the Vikings from Anglo-Saxon sources, settlement theories and DNA analysis.
Janina Ramirez teaches the history of art at the University of Oxford and has presented several BBC series, including Viking Art and Treasures of the Anglo-Saxons on BBC Four

- due to train delays I missed the first 10 minutes of this lecture but the rest was very enlightening with Janina exploring and explaining DNA studies of certain areas of the north of English, can't quite remember which areas, which demonstrated how although some families genetics may contain more norse than most we all share a little part of the vikings. Janina also dispelled quite a few urban myths about the vikings such as their cleanliness and most importantly the fact that they DID NOT WEAR HORNS! I think she may have also mentioned about the shared language with the Vikings bringing many hundred if not thousands of new words that are still used in modern vocabulary such as windows and spoon and he/she/they. There was a chance to ask questions and I asked Janina if the essence of 'otherness' about the Vikings prevented much debate or indeed interest in later centuries regarding the very stable and peaceful reign of one and only Viking King, King Cnut and indeed his viking descended, Norman Queen, Queen Emma. -

Philip Parker
Talk: Ruling without Kings: State and Society in Viking Iceland
The Viking discovery and settlement of Iceland around AD 874 led to the creation of a unique society, the Icelandic Commonwealth, which was free for almost four centuries of the rule of kings. Philip will examine how that society evolved and finally collapsed, leading to the imposition of royal rule by the kings of Norway.
Philip Parker is a writer and historian specialising in late antiquity and early medieval Europe. He is the author of The Northmen’s Fury: A History of the Viking World (Jonathan Cape, 2014)

- this lecture by Philip Parker was equally enlightening regarding the complicated and yet highly successful and unique form of governing the settlers of Iceland established without a single head of state. I read a book on Viking Age Iceland several years ago when my first norse writings were set on an Iceland-like island called Thule which is what some old sagas and records refer to Iceland as. In fact the main piece I remember from this lecture was as Philip explained that Iceland nearly became known as Snowland, really? True, the second Viking who discovered actually settled for more than jus a winter for a new sailing season to begin and he renamed it Iceland. I know understand that the All-Thing wasn't just a meeting for the various Godi's (a Farmers Jarl) and their superior Godi's that I can't remember the precise name of meet to discuss recent acts of crime or bloodshed or trade disputes but it was also treated like a festival and national market. Traders would indeed follow their Godi's to sell produce and families would attend whether involved in any legal dispute or not. It also showed how much pressure the Icelanders must have been under to end their form of stable independent government after several hundred years by conceding Iceland to Norwegian rule. From what I know now the many christian priests and bishops sent over to convert were doing more than change the ways of souls but also the will of the political establishment. I managed to meet him briefly afterward to get my copy of his new HUGE book The Northmen's Fury: A History of the Viking World signed and I have started it and it is a very good read not at all overly academic or boring and give me a few months and I may well put up a review of it hehehe-

Gareth Williams

Talk: Ships and Society in the Viking Age
The many achievements of the Vikings were only possible because of their skill as shipbuilders and seamen. Gareth will explore the development of the Viking ship, and its role within Viking society.
Gareth Williams is curator of the forthcoming British Museum exhibition Vikings: Life and Legend, and author of The Viking Ship (British Museum Press, 2014)

- read my full review and thoughts of this particular lecture in previous blog post -

Dr Ryan Lavelle

Talk: Fighting the Vikings: War and Peace in Viking-Age Britain
Looking at the experience of war and peace in England and other parts of Britain in the Viking Age, Ryan will address the defensive responses to Viking attacks. He will also consider the ways in which the English conducted warfare aggressively against their neighbours, displaying, in many ways, ‘Viking’ behaviour of their own.
Dr Ryan Lavelle is senior lecturer in medieval history at the University of Winchester, and an expert in Anglo-Saxon history. He is author of Alfred’s Wars: Sources and Interpretations of Anglo-Saxon Warfare in the Viking Age (Boydell, 2010)

-  Unfortunately my memory is stretched thin when I try and recall much from this lecture and I must stress that it is not at all because it was boring in the slightest, every one of these lectures taught me something new and I didn't fall asleep at all although I did notice one guy sat the back snoring his head off upright. I think Dr Ryan discussed the use of horses in battle and stressed that he believed from studying records including the Bayeux Tapestry that although the Norman invasion fleet carried horses the Great Heathen Army from previous centuries didn't and that the Vikings 'sourced' aka stole mounts from places that they raided and looted once they had disembarked on land. This did encourage an interesting debate between a member of the audience who had to me clearly been speaking to Giles Kristian during a coffee break regarding his personal experience rowing a replica longship and this audience member avidly believed that such ships had space around the mast post to accomodate horses without loosing out too many rowers and war gear required for any raid or invasion.-

Judith Jesch

Talk: Treasures of the Sword-Trees: Viking Poets and Poetry
The Vikings were accomplished poets as well as raiders, traders and settlers. Judith’s talk will explore what Viking poetry tells us about their attitudes to sailing, war, treasure – and love.
Judith Jesch is professor of Viking studies at the University of Nottingham. She is author of Viking Poetry of Love and War (British Museum Press, 2013)

- now this for me was the real gem as I've read a few Norse Saga's such as Grettir's Saga and Egil's Saga and have noticed some poetry and clever kennings within them but I've never considered deliberately studied or read dedicated norse poetry. And boy they are not just pretty phrases made by a drunken inspired viking after a raid the poems Judith gave as examples had stories to tell about war, about love, about women and about longships. They are also incredibly complex with alliteration, highlights different stresses, use of odd and even patterns in the lines and in each sentence. And some of the way things and people are described without being obvious are very difficult to work out whereas if you asked a Viking from the time they could probably solve it easily as the imagery is often used relates to how they see the world. After her lecture I managed to have the chance to buy Judith's book on Viking Poetry of Love and War and get it signed alongside a newly bought copy from the Jorvik Viking Festival 'Women in the Viking Age.'.-

And here are the 3 fantastically new and exciting viking non-fiction books I have YET to devour alongside the 2 from the earlier lecture by Gareth Williams. I can assure you all now that once each has been read a full review will be posted and it will join my growing collection of vikingy books at the Fantasy Guide site.

And that sums up my 2nd vikingy event for 2014 for this Tyr's-day - tomorrow is Woden (aka Odin)'s Day and so something fairly substantial must be dragged out of my memory for a suitable sacrifice - how about my review of the British Museum's Vikings: Life and Legend Exhibit?
Yes it's the one review many on the internet are clammering for and to give you a taster of what I think and what you will learn here is a simple phrase to take as you will


*I swear on my valkyrian wings that I will try to get this special review up at a bit more of a reasonable hour - if not you can all call me a Nithing*

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