Home Forums Medieval Dark Age Book Recommendations?

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  • #147859
    Noel
    Participant

    Hi, I’m looking for some reading material to help me understand the Dark Age period of Europe. Something that will give me a greater sense of these Saga factions and their world.

    Thanks for your suggestions!

    #147862
    Mike Headden
    Participant

    Not a cheap option at 26.99 on Amazon but Ian Heath’s “Armies of the Dark Ages” is a useful resource.

    OSPREY have a number of titles covering the Dark Ages, mostly under a tenner. Well under a tenner often, if second hand. The more general ones are

    Arthur and the Anglo-Saxon Wars: Anglo-Celtic Warfare, A.D.410-1066: 154 (Men-at-Arms) by Dr David Nicolle and Angus McBride

    Saxon, Viking and Norman (Men-at-Arms Series: 85) by Terence Wise , Martin Windrow, et al.

    I’m sure others will chime in with more suggestions.

     

    Growing old is mandatory, growing up is entirely optional!

    #147863
    Noel
    Participant

    Thanks, Mike!

    #147865
    Logain
    Participant

    I’d start with Egil’s Saga, and The Longships. Read them before or along side Mike’s suggestions.

     

    #147866
    ian pillay
    Participant

    Ian Heaths book is good. If you can find a copy Dan Mersey’s Glutter of Ravens rules has lots of background to the Dark Ages.

    Tally-Ho!

    #147867
    Geof Downton
    Participant

    http://amazon.co.uk/As-Told-Great-Hall-Wargamers/dp/1445603802/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=as+told+in+the+great+hall&qid=1607062941&sr=8-1

    …and I’d have to agree with Ian’s recommendation of Glutter of Ravens.

    One who puts on his armour should not boast like one who takes it off.
    Ahab, King of Israel; 1 Kings 20:11

    #147874
    Guy Farrish
    Participant

    Michael Wood’s ‘In Search of the Dark Ages’

    Book – cheap on ABE or if you must Amazon

    Several episodes of the documentary TV series on You Tube and I believe the two series are now available on dvd.

    40 years old now but as an intro great – then read the sagas.

    #147885
    Ruarigh
    Participant

    For understanding the factions, I would be inclined to go with Guy Halsall’s Warfare and Society in the Barbarian West, 450-900 and his Violence and Society in the Early Medieval West. Warfare and Society, in particular, looks at how worldview affects approaches to warfare and perceptions of the way others make war.

    Judith Jesch’s The Viking Diaspora offers a sense of the movements of the Vikings, although it is more about people and settlers rather than warfare. For Vikings more generally, The Viking World edited by Stefan Brink and Neil Price is a doorstop of a book that provides overviews of lots of Viking culture-related topics. Vikings: Raids. Culture. Legacy. by Marjolein Stern and me is a more general history that might also be of interest. For a short read on the Vikings, The Vikings by Sæbjorg Walaker Nordeide is a good option.

    Hope this helps.

    Never argue with an idiot. They'll only drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.

    https://emidsvikings.ac.uk/
    https://roderickdale.co.uk/

    #147893
    Noel
    Participant

    Oh, you are really giving me some interesting choices, here.

     

    Thank you!

     

    I recall my earliest interests in ancient Rome as a teenager and just heading to the bookstore to see what they had. With virtual bookstores now offering an overwhelming selection, it’s even harder to find a starting point with a new period of history.

     

    This is so helpful.  Thank you.

    #147917
    Logain
    Participant

    Seriously the historical accounts recorded in the Icelandic Sagas are where to start. There are a lot of great books that are purely historical, as mentioned above, but they tend to focus on the big picture. “Saga” is all about small skirmishes and there is nothing that will give you a better picture of the lives, conflicts and motivations of the small groups of men that skirmished in the dark ages of Northern Europe. Egil’s Saga is perhaps the most popular/approachable but many of them are very good. The Longships is historical fiction written in the style of the Sagas and gives a broader view of the Vikings interactions with other parts of the world. If you were going to play big battles I would recommend something else… but there is a reason they named the game “Saga“

    #147937
    Noel
    Participant

    Will definitely check them out.

    #147954
    Mike Headden
    Participant

    The sagas are great for inspiration and for scenario ideas but they are not history, though they are based on it. They are fiction and propaganda.

    If you want to understand the factions, their differences and similarities, their relationship to each other, their strengths and weaknesses you need something less parochial and less partisan. That’s not to say they aren’t worth reading, they are great stories and full of little details you’ll never get from the broader brush histories.

    I’ll offer up The Saga of Burnt Njal as a follow up to Egil’s Saga. A tale of minor slights evolving into bloody vendetta.

    Some other suggestions:

    English Heritage Book of Viking Age England (English Heritage) Hardcover – Illustrated, 5 Oct. 1991 by Julian D. Richards

    Anglo Saxon England (English Heritage) Hardcover – 5 Jun. 1992 by Martin G. Welch

    Book of Norman England: An Archaeological Perspective on the Norman Conquest (English Heritage) Paperback – 5 Nov. 1997 by Trevor Rowley

    Growing old is mandatory, growing up is entirely optional!

    #148089
    Noel
    Participant

    Thanks, Mike. These look like great suggestions!

    #148301
    kevin halloran
    Participant

    I would also check out a number of online blogs.  Jonathan Jarrett’s A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe is highly regarded and has links to many other sites such as Tim Clarkson’s Senchus which specialises in early medieval Scotland and north Britain.  Not reading but don’t overlook the TV series, The Vikings and The Last Kingdom; both employ respected historians as advisers.

    #148312
    Ruarigh
    Participant

    Not reading but don’t overlook the TV series, The Vikings and The Last Kingdom; both employ respected historians as advisers.

    The Real Vikings, which was produced as a historical annex to Vikings is worth a watch. Howard Williams has written some good stuff on his ArchaeoDeath blog about Vikings and The Last Kingdom that gives a sense of the early medieval period, although mainly relating to burial practices.

     

    Never argue with an idiot. They'll only drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.

    https://emidsvikings.ac.uk/
    https://roderickdale.co.uk/

    #148315
    kevin halloran
    Participant

    Thanks, Ruarigh.  A source I didn’t mention because I’m not sure of availability is the series of 13 essays published by Oxford University in 1989 under the title Weapons and Warfare in Anglo-Saxon England, ed. S.C.Hawkes.  There is lots of good stuff in this and it should be available from a decent library.

     

    http://opac.regesta-imperii.de/lang_en/anzeige.php?sammelwerk=Weapons+and+Warfare+in+Anglo-Saxon+England

    #148332
    Noel
    Participant

    Thanks!

     

    My wife surprised me with a copy of The Timetraveller’s Guide to Saxon and Viking London, which is a fun book.

    #148460
    kevin halloran
    Participant

    Battle of Maldon

    The OE Poem, The Battle of Maldon, portrays an encounter between the Saxon fyrd and a Viking force which was fought in 991.  It gives an insight into a variety of things, the relationships of lords to retainers, the potential use of ransom to buy off invaders, the use of horses in battle and how weapons, bows, spears, swords and shields were used.

    #149044
    Noel
    Participant

    Oh that seems interesting! Thank you!

    #149047
    Not Connard Sage
    Participant

    Not a cheap option at 26.99 on Amazon but Ian Heath’s “Armies of the Dark Ages” is a useful resource. OSPREY have a number of titles covering the Dark Ages, mostly under a tenner. Well under a tenner often, if second hand. The more general ones are Arthur and the Anglo-Saxon Wars: Anglo-Celtic Warfare, A.D.410-1066: 154 (Men-at-Arms) by Dr David Nicolle and Angus McBride Saxon, Viking and Norman (Men-at-Arms Series: 85) by Terence Wise , Martin Windrow, et al. I’m sure others will chime in with more suggestions.

    27 quid is expensive for Armies of the Dark Ages. It’s 40 years old and hasn’t worn well. Ditto Terry Wise’s (bless him) Osprey. I have both, bought when first published. I am an old git 🙂

    I,Personnaly, I’d go for Ruarigh’s suggestions.

    There’s Neil Oliver’s TV series too, guess what it’s called 😉

     

    "I go online sometimes, but everyone's spelling is really bad. It's... depressing."

    #149111
    Mark Lewis
    Participant

    Not reading but don’t overlook the TV series, The Vikings and The Last Kingdom; both employ respected historians as advisers.

    Unfortunately it doesn’t look like any advice they gave was actually used, especially in costume design !

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