"In the year of our Lord 845, the vast army of Northmen breached the frontiers of the Christians. This was something that we never heard or read of happening before." This is how a Frankish monk from the monastery of St. Germain-des-Pres near Paris described one of the first attack of those whom we now call Vikings. Ever since that attack, the Vikings have fascinated European and American audiences of many persuasions. Visions of the Vikings as racial forebears and role models helped glorify Nazi territorial demands and the construction of the "Aryan" culture. Scandinavian immigrants of Wisconsin and Minnesota identified with the Viking farmers mentioned in old sagas as having settled in Vinland. To many, Leif Eriksson, not Cristopher Columbus, is the true hero in the saga of the New World. As plunderers, hooligans, but also mercenaries and soldiers of fortune, the Vikings populate the American imagination with dragon ships and horned helmets, from a Minnesota football team to Hoggetown's medieval fair. But who were the Vikings? What made them so difficult to represent by the traditional means of Western historiography and so easy to manipulate in contemporary culture? What were the historical conditions in which this name, Vikings, was first used and for what purpose? How was Viking ethnicity formed and under what circumstances did the Vikings come into being? Above all, this course aims to provide answers to some of these questions. We will explore social and political issues of Scandinavian medieval history and examine various aspects of daily life and Church organization. Following a chronological order, we will look, each week, at the questions and problems raised by the study of this region, and at some of the primary sources from which historians draw their analysis.
- Birgit and Peter Sawyer, Medieval Scandinavia. From Conversion to Reformation, circa 800-1500. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993 [hereafter Sawyer]; on two-hour reserve in Library West
- Russel Andrew McDonald and Angus A. Sommervillle, The Viking Age. A Reader. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010 [hereafter McDonald]
- The Oxford Illustrated History of the Vikings. Ed. by Peter Sawyer. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 2001 [hereafter Oxford]; on two-hour reserve in Library West
- (optional) Medieval Scandinavia. An Encyclopedia. Ed. by Phillip Pulsiano. New York: Garland, 1993
NOTE: It is essential that you read the assigned sections in the textbook(s) at the time they are due. Class meetings will be organized around a lecture/discussion format and quizzes will necessitate familiarity with the material.
There is no attendance policy, but you are responsible for attending all lectures and reading the required texts. Class participation may be taken into account to determine the overall grade. The basis for evaluation of performance will be four quizzes and two exams (Midterm and Final). The unannounced quizzes are exclusively based on primary source readings from your McDonald book, as well as from the Internet Medieval Sourcebook. All quizzes will consist only of questions (no essay). A careful study of these texts is necessary for a good performance at the quiz. The Midterm and Final exams will cover everything from lectures and readings. Both will consist of a short answer portion and a longer essay. Please review the University's academic honesty guidelines and the Disability Resource Center checklist. Make-up Midterm and Final exam will be given for very serious reasons. There is no make-up for quizzes. Extra-credit work will be accepted only for students with active participation in class discussions. The format of the extra-credit option shall be discussed with the instructor during regular office hours. The following point-system will be used in determining the final grade:
Quizzes: 40 points
Midterm: 30 points
Final exam: 30 points
Total: 100 points
Points Grade 97-100 A 93-96 A- 88-92 B+ 81-87 B 75-80 B- 68-74 C+ 61-67 C 55-60 C- 48-54 D+ 41-47 D 35-40 D- under 35 E
© 2012 Florin Curta