On Thursday 17 Jan, History Extra magazine published my piece: The real Vikings: the early medieval world behind the hit drama.
I attempt an overview of the significance and value of the TV show from an academic perspective, suggesting that, despite some issues and myths it perpetuates, Vikings is an invaluable medium of public engagement for the study of the Early Middle Ages. In particular, I emphasise the importance of the banal dimensions – living and dwelling – and the materialities (artefacts, substances, architectures and other material cultures) of the show.
This piece builds on a series of over 40 blog-posts I’ve written about the TV series focusing on its portray of Norse death rituals. Furthermore, I’ve written 3 book chapters – one co-authored with Dr Alison Klevnäs (Stockholm University) and one co-authored with Dr Alexandra Sanmark (UHI) about dimensions of the show: its funerals, its portrayal of the post-burial treatment and circulation of human remains, and its assembly places and practices. These appear in a book edited by Paul Hardwick and Kate Lister: Vikings and the Vikings, and my edited collection with Ben Wills-Eve and Jennifer Osborne: The Public Archaeology of Death.
Williams, H. and Klevnäs, A. 2019. Dialogues with the dead in Vikings, in P. Hardwick and K. Lister (eds) Vikings and the Vikings: The Norse World(s) of the History Channel Series, Jefferson, NC: McFarland Press. 128−152.
Sanmark, A. and Williams, H. 2019. Things in Vikings, in P. Hardwick and K. Lister (eds) Vikings and the Vikings: The Norse World(s) of the History Channel Series, Jefferson, NC: McFarland Press, 173−200.
Williams, H. 2019. Death’s drama: mortuary practice in Vikings Season 1–4, in H. Williams, B. Wills-Eve and J. Osborne (eds) The Public Archaeology of Death, Sheffield: Equinox, pp. 155–182.
I haven’t gone out of my way to court archaeology and history magazines to feature my work. Still, my name was put forward by my colleague Dr Clare Hickman to participate in the BBC History Magazine Weekend at Chester in October. I gave both a talk about the archaeological ethics and interpretive challenges of discerning evidence of Viking warrior women, as well as a ‘Death and the City’ tour of Chester in the worst rain imaginable. I was subsequently invited to write for the magazine.
Thanks to Rob Attar, editor of BBC History Magazine, for inviting me to contribute, and to Dr Kara Critchell, Dr Caitlin Green, Adam Parsons and Dr Simon Trafford for commenting on a draft of the text.
I’m really delighted by how the article turned out and the choices of images to accompany the piece. I wonder what the reaction from readers will be?