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Book Review
The Vikings, Voyagers of Discovery and Plunder

by: Mark R. Smith [ GUNNY ]

Originally published on:
Model Shipwrights

why the vikings went south...

"The number of ships grows: the endless stream of Vikings never ceases to increase. Everywhere the Christians are the victims of massacres, burnings, plunderings. The Vikings conquer all in their path and nothing resists them”
-Ermantarius of Noirmoutier, c. 860

With their raids taking them from Norway to North Africa, and all over the world, the Vikings established the dukedom of Normandy, provided bodyguard protection to the Byzantine emperor, and yes, landed on the shores of America 500 years before Christopher Columbus.

This beautifully illustrated new hardcover from Osprey Publishing tells the complete story of the Vikings, in all of their glory! A four way effort combining the talents of four authors into one volume of detailed examinations of the Viking hersir, the raiding warrior of the Viking world, and of course, the long ship. Also included are stories of the Vikings experiences while in North America, and also details Viking home life.

Although this writing is not geared toward the modeler in any way whatsoever, it still is a good reference point for either the figure modeler looking for subject of this type, or the shipbuilder, who fancies the “oars and winds” era of the famed Viking Longship, the sleek, lean, predator of the sea.

This volume reads easily, very informative, as well as quite exciting, as the combinations of the four authors writing talents seem to complement each other, by achieving these accomplishments. Practically each and every page is graced with beautiful, high resolution full color photographs, drawings, or paintings to help support and illustrate the text accompaniments. This volume is designed to teach, illustrate, and explain to the reader the complete story, and history, of the Viking.

Chapter Overview

The book begins with a very colorful forward by Magnus Magnusson, who, as fans of BBC television will recognize, is best known as the presenter of “Master Mind” for over 25 years. He is quite the scholar on the subject of the Viking, having published over 30 books, broadcast several TV programs, and has translated the Vinland Sagas as well as many Norse Sagas into English. Following the forward is a brief Chronology of the Viking’s activity through history, spanning from c.350 BC, to the collapse of the Scandinavian threat in the year 1085.

We then move into the first of the volumes main chapters, first is “A History of the Vikings”, which, as the title suggests, takes the reader on a journey through Viking time beginning with a study of who the Vikings were, their lives at home and abroad, with sections covering society and social status, Viking women, art and weaponry, dwellings and other small details. Very interesting reading!

Again, these pages are filled with photographs that fully illustrate the subject at hand. Throughout these illustrations the modeler can find superb, full color reference examples of the Viking, as well as fantastic supporting information.

Following this chapter, we now have “The Viking Hersir”, which translates to their leader, a middle rank warrior. In this chapter we find writings that cover deeper into the Vikings culture, their battle training, and tactics at sea and land, logistics and fortifications. Additional sections cover specific documented Viking battles, and then on to the Vikings appearance and their equipment. Many color pictures (again) help to illustrate the text and its teachings. The chapter wraps up with a section about weapons manufacture techniques.

Next, we have (and also my favorite!) a chapter covering the Viking Longship, from its early stages, through its entire evolution. From the ancient skin and log construction, to the later expert craftsmanship of the finest shipwrights of the times, the authors discuss the many types of Longship, as well as delving into fascinating sections explaining shipbuilding and shipwright technique. Superb photos, color plates, and technical drawings help the reader to understand this wonderful ship of the past, and the work that it took to build one. There is a complete numbered breakdown of an 11th century knar, with explanation in the proper nomenclature...very cool!
The final pages of the book contain a detailed glossary of terms and terminology found within the book, and a very concise bibliography.
You will also find an appendix that contains a listing of museums of the world that contain some of the best Viking collections, most notably in England and of course, Scandinavia.


Overall, this is a fantastic reference book, and as mentioned earlier, is not specifically geared toward the modeler, it will make a good point of reference for such, as well as a favorite for the student or Historian. Informative, educational text, wonderful, clear, full color photos, and full color illustrations and ancient paintings all tie together into a very interesting and exciting volume...truly a specialty subject, and if your interest lies within the bounds of these ancient warriors and sailors, then this volume belongs on your bookshelf! Highly recommended, and definitely a great read.

Many thanks to Osprey Publishing for providing us with a special, pre-release look at this fantastic hardcover book.


9 ¾” X 7 ¾”
208 pp
130 high resolution, color, & black and white photos
Publish Date- 27 June 2006
Written by R. Chartrand, K. Durham, M. Harrison, and I. Heath
Foreword by Magnus Magnusson


I. Foreword
II. Chronology
III. “A History of the Vikings”
IV. “The Viking Hersir”
V. “The Viking Long ship”
VI. Glossary
VII. Bibliography

Portrayed as ruthless, blood thirsty, animals that would stop at nothing in their search for their treasures, the Vikings first arrived into history in AD 793, overthrowing the church on the English Island, Lindisfarne. Today, the Vikings are still a popular historical subject, and are featured in major museums worldwide, including permanent exhibits in the Smithsonian. This new book from Osprey Publishing covers the history, culture, and legacy of the Vikings.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: Other
  Mfg. ID: 1 84603 087 0
  Suggested Retail: $24.95 U.S.
  Related Link: Official Osprey Website
  PUBLISHED: May 04, 2006

About Mark R. Smith (Gunny)

I have been building models of all sorts all of my life, concentrating mainly on the coolest one's when I was younger, but now I focus directly on all military subjects, from armor to warships. After years of counting rivets, I put away the calipers, dial indicators, and micrometers and now just ha...

Copyright ©2020 text by Mark R. Smith [ GUNNY ]. All rights reserved.


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Click image to enlarge
  • The Vikings 001
    Book Cover
  • The Vikings 003
    The Viking Culture
  • The Vikings 004
    The Vikings Longship - Shipwrights and Shipbuilding
  • The Vikings 005
    The Vikings Longship - Ship construction
  • The Vikings 006
    The Vikings Longship
  • The Vikings 007
    The Vikings Longship - Naval Viking Nomenclature
  • The Vikings 008
    Viking navigations
  • The Vikings 009
    A History of the Vikings