Viking-Age and Medieval Scandinavia at UCL
"It is some 350 years that we and our forefathers have inhabited this lovely land, and never before in Britain has such a terror appeared as this we have now suffered at the hands of the heathen. Nor was it thought possible that such an inroad from the sea could be made. Behold, the church of St. Cuthbert spattered with the blood of the priests of God, despoiled of all its ornaments; a place more venerable than all in Britain is given as a prey to pagan peoples." - Letter of Alcuin to King Æthelræd, 793
The Viking Age is one of the most fascinating and controversial periods in the Middle Ages...
... the Vikings themselves are one of the most misunderstood and misrepresented, feared and celebrated, demonized and lionized groups in history. But their influence on their world—both within Scandinavia and far beyond—was undoubtedly enormous.
At UCL, we study the Viking Age because it marks the starting point for so many crucial developments in the Nordic countries: the Vikings' language, Old Norse, is the parent of all the modern Scandinavian languages; the formation of the individual Nordic states began during this period and so, it could be argued, did the very notion of 'Scandinavia'; the earliest flowering of literature in the north took place in medieval Iceland, whose sagas continue to capture the imagination today. Also, it was during the Viking Age that some of the most fundamental and far-reaching transformations of Scandinavian society took place: the conversion from paganism to Christianity, the transition from pre-literate to literate culture, and the development of centralized polities out of disparate tribal groups.
The Viking Age, its history, language and literature are themes central to many of the programmes in the Department of Scandinavian Studies; the department has a long-held reputation for excellence in medieval studies, and UCL is the only university in Britain where in-depth study of the Nordic Middle Ages can be combined with full training in modern Scandinavian languages. For most students, Old Norse is compulsory in the first year, and a full range of relevant optional modules are available to all in years 2 and 4. The Department also offers two degree programmes devoted particularly to medieval studies:
The Department employs two full-time medieval scholars: Dr Christopher Abram, who works on Old Norse-Icelandic literature and mythology and Dr Haki Antonsson, a historian with particular interests in the Chrstianization of Scandinavia. We also collaborate with other medievalists in UCL, mainly through the MA in Medieval Studies. We are currently also involved, along with colleagues at the University of Bergen, in the International Research Project 'The“Forging” of Christian Identity in the Northern Periphery (c.820-c.1200)', funded by the Research Council of Norway.
The Department of Scandinavian Studies is home to the Viking Society for Northern Research. Founded in 1892, the Viking Society is a leading publisher of Old Norse texts and monographs on Medieval Scandinavia, and holds regular meetings and conferences at UCL and other universities around Britain. Membership is open to all.
The UCL Medieval Scandinavian Seminar meets three times a term, and features papers by graduate students and visiting scholars from a wide variety of disciplines.