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What to expect
Viking Britain author Thomas Williams returns with a brief history of the interaction between the Vikings and the British to tell the story of the occupation of London.
The Vikings remoulded the world, changed the language, and upended the dynamics of power and trade. Monasteries and settlements burned, ancient dynasties were extinguished. And nowhere in these islands saw more aggression than London. Between 842 and 1016, the city was subjected repeatedly to serious assault.
In this short history, bestselling historian Thomas Williams recounts the profound impact Viking raiders from the North had on London. Delving into London’s darkest age, he charts how the city was transformed in this period by immigrants and natives, kings and commoners, into the fulcrum of national power and identity. London emerged as a hub of trade, production and international exchange, a financial centre, a political prize, a fiercely independent and often intractable cauldron of spirited and rowdy townsfolk: a place that, a thousand years ago, already embodied much of what London was to become and still remains.
This remarkable book takes the reader into a city of spectres, to its ancient past, to timeworn street names hidden beneath concrete underpasses, to the crypts of old churches, to a stretch of the old river bank, or the depths of museum collections. Nothing is lost in the city. And memories of the Vikings hover like a miasma in these places, blowing across the mud and shingle on the Thames foreshore – ghosts of Viking London.
‘Fresh, vivid and impeccably researched … the most rip-roaring work of nonfiction I read this year’ Tom Holland, Observer, Books of the Year
‘Williams’ infectiously enthusiastic book gives you everything you could want from a history of the Vikings’ Dominic Sandbrook, Sunday Times, Books of the Year
‘A debut that pulses with the author’s passion for his subject and his mastery of written sources, archaeology and legend. Williams narrates a complex story in enjoyable, lusty prose’ Dan Jones, Sunday Times
‘Viking Britain [is] an engrossing account … Williams is scrupulous to avoid the easy pub-chat message. He writes fluently and with feeling’ Thomas W. Hodgkinson, Spectator
‘Williams is a master at conveying the atmosphere of Viking Britain … We are guests at a sensory feast, at times immersed … and at others guided by the comforting hand of firm historical evaluation. Viking Britain is a giddy ride … a real treat’ Philip Parker, Literary Review
‘Williams evocative prose puts flesh on sturdy academic bones. ‘Viking Britain’ is a pleasure to read… a lively, colourful book that explores in high definition what being a Viking really meant. Williams … succeeds where many have failed: to make the truth about the Vikings as entertaining as the fiction’ Giles Kristian, The Times
‘An exemplary work of popular history, at once full of the most up-to-date archaeology and international scholarly thought, and full of the literary flourishes which bring the past most vividly to life for readers: dramatic reconstruction, physical scene-setting and authorial intervention. It is a great success’ Ronald Hutton
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