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Bands of brothers: the socio-political and military organisation of Viking armies during the 9th century

Author(s): Ben Raffield

Year: 2017

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During the mid- to late-9th century, historical sources attest to large Viking raiding-fleets and ‘armies’ operating in northwestern Europe. These itinerant groups were not only seeking plunder but also land to settle, and some managed to establish colonies and enclaves with varying long-term success.

The size and impact of these groups came under scrutiny during the latter half of the 20th century, when some scholars sought to downplay the influence of warfare as a catalyst of social and political change during the Viking Age. However, in recent years, others have begun to seriously reconsider and challenge these perspectives. It is now widely accepted, for example, that Viking ‘armies’ could be very large indeed, and that they were powerful military and political entities in their own right. Focusing primarily on the Great Army, which was active in England during the period 865-78, this paper explores the structure and objectives of these groups through the consideration of archaeological material and contemporaneous annals. I argue that the Great Army is better considered as a mobile society or polity rather than an armed force, a distinction that has many implications for our understanding of this and other such Viking groups operating during the period.

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Bands of brothers: the socio-political and military organisation of Viking armies during the 9th century. Ben Raffield. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430719)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 13278

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America