Making a Warrior: The Social Implications of Viking Age Martial Ideologies

Making a Warrior: the Social Implications of Viking Age Martial Ideologies brings together an interdisciplinary, pan-Nordic network of mid- and early- career researchers to examine a topic of high academic and cultural interest, namely that of the Viking Age warrior. The Viking warrior dominates both academic discourse and popular perceptions pertaining to the period. Stories about the Viking Age often highlight raiding, warfare and aggressive expansion tactics, and results in a view of the period as being characterised by violence. Though such stories do rest on a certain basis in truth, they nevertheless ignore the wider societal aspects of what is required to support ideologies of violence and warfare. To address this, we will initiate a critical reappraisal and redefinition of warriorhood in Viking Age Scandinavia.

The basis for our project lies in the belief that warriorhood was a dynamic and multifaceted institution, that found expression not only in violence but also in various socio-political and ritual contexts. The persona of the warrior therefore was enacted both on and off the battlefield, and by a variety of people in different ways. Crucially, we believe that to understand the impact of a martial ideology, we need to situate warrior groups in a wider cultural context, and to understand the interrelationship between a martial ideology, daily life and social interaction and warrior groups.

Our approach employs a methodology of applied theory across disciplines and work packages to bring together complex topics into cohesive studies. We rely on theoretical concepts of personhood, intersectionality, cultural memory, conflict studies and cognitive science perspectives to address questions such as how martial identities were expressed and understood in different contexts, how the internal structures of warrior groups affected their relationship with their wider social contexts, and how the interplay between martial ideologies and daily life worked to support and underpin each other. Throughout the project we are also mindful of the public interest in the Viking Age as cultural heritage, and seek to engage with this through a targeted work package that examines cultural heritage dimensions of research on the past.


Bodil Aurstad. Photo: NordForsk

Bodil Aurstad

Special Adviser