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The Viking Great Army and the Making of England

Dawn Hadley, Julian Richards

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The definitive account of the notorious Viking Great Army that swept through Britain between AD 865 and 880

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The Viking Great Army that swept through England between AD 865 and 878 altered the course of British history. Since the late 8th century, Viking raids on the British Isles had been a regular feature of life, but the winter of 865 saw a fundamental shift that would change the political, economic and social landscape forever. Instead of making quick smash-and-grab summer raids for silver and slaves, Vikings now remained in England for the winter and became immersed in its communities. Some settled permanently, acquiring land and forming a new hybrid Anglo-Scandinavian culture. The Viking army was here to stay. Its presence was a catalyst for new towns and new industries, while transformations in power politics would ultimately see the rise of King Alfred the Great and make Wessex the pre-eminent kingdom of Anglo-Saxon England.

Drawing on the most up-to-date discoveries and the latest scientific techniques, the authors’ recent research at the Viking Great Army’s winter camp at Torksey in Lincolnshire has revolutionized what we know about its size, activities and social makeup, as has the wealth of newly recovered evidence from metal-detectorists. Unfolding like a great detective story, this account traces the movements of the Great Army across the country, piecing together a new picture of Viking Age England in unprecedented detail, from swords, coins, jewelry and the burials of great warriors to the everyday objects that ordinary farmers and craftsmen discarded. It is the definitive story of a vital period in British history.


'The story of the Viking Great Army and its campaigns changed the political landscape of the British Isles forever. Until recently it seemed as if nothing more was likely to be discovered about the course of these dramatic events. This exciting book describes stunning new archaeological discoveries that totally rewrite our view of what happened. Here, in mesmerizing detail, we can follow the army as it criss-crossed Britain in the time of Alfred the Great, demolishing the old kingdoms. With gripping immediacy the book backs up the monastic chroniclers’ stories of the scale of the threat and the devastation the army wrought in its remorseless progress across the land. Unmissable for anyone interested in early medieval history and who finds the Viking Age one of the most dramatic, violent, yet formative epochs in British history'
Michael Wood, Historian and author of 'The Story of China' and 'In Search of the Dark Ages'

'A detailed yet enjoyable read, and a timely stock-take of this pivotal point in the history of England. It is a story that could never before have been told as fully as it can now'
Cat Jarman, Current Archaeology

'A superbly well-written synthesis, combining historical overview, archaeological analysis, and insightful interpretation'
Neil Faulkner, The Past

'Impressive ... an essential addition to the shelves of those with an interest in the Viking Age and the events that would shape the political development of England'
British Archaeology

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: Hardback

Size: 23.4 x 15.3 cm

Extent: 320 pp

Illustrations: 107

Publication date: 27 May 2021

ISBN: 9780500022016

Contents List

Prologue: Heroes and Villains
Part I: The Vikings and their World: 1. Warrior-Chiefs and Kings; 2. The Raids Begin
Part II: The Viking Great Army: 3. A Pivotal Decade; 4. The Winter of AD 872–3 and the Camp at Torksey; 5. Beyond the Winter Camps; 6. The Army’s Dead; 7. Raiders to Settlers; 8. York and the Viking Camp at Aldwark
Part III: The Making of a Nation: 9. Wessex Fights Back and the Origins of England; 10 The First Industrial Revolution • Epilogue: Immigrants and Artisans

About the Author

Dawn M. Hadley and Julian D. Richards are both professors of archaeology at the University of York. They are co-directors of the Tents to Towns project, exploring the transition from Viking raiding to trading. Julian is author of Viking Age England, now in its third edition, and The Vikings: A Very Short Introduction. Dawn is author of The Vikings in England: Settlement, Society and Culture.

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