“The Vikings and their Enemies” is a well-researched and comprehensive book by Philip Line that explores the military tactics, technologies, and strategies of the Vikings and their interactions with their enemies in Northern Europe. The book provides a fresh perspective on a familiar subject by focusing on previously neglected aspects of Viking warfare, including military organization and contemporary attitudes to war. The aim of this review is to provide a summary of the book’s main themes, strengths, and weaknesses, with headings for each section.
Military Organization and Attitudes to War:
The book begins by examining the military organization of the Vikings, including their use of naval power, raiding tactics, and battlefield tactics. The author highlights the importance of Viking ships in their military campaigns, which allowed them to travel long distances quickly and launch surprise attacks. The book also explores the contemporary attitudes to war among the Vikings and their enemies, and how these attitudes influenced the way wars were fought and even why they were fought.
Sources and Reliability:
One of the strengths of the book is its critical examination of the available sources on Viking warfare. The author evaluates the reliability and bias of the sources, and places them within their historical, cultural, and social contexts. He also acknowledges the limitations of the sources, and the need to question accounts that are uncertain or contradictory. By doing so, the book provides a more nuanced understanding of Viking warfare that goes beyond the stereotypes of raiding and pillaging.
Material Culture and Weapons:
Another aspect of Viking warfare that the book explores is the material culture of warfare, including weapons, armor, and fortifications. The author provides a detailed description of Viking weapons, from swords and axes to spears and bows, and their development over time. He also examines the use of armor and helmets, and how they evolved in response to changing military needs. The book also discusses the use of fortifications, from ring forts and hill forts to burhs and castles, and their impact on Viking military tactics.
Role of Women:
The book also explores the role of women in Viking warfare, both as combatants and as supporters of the warriors. The author challenges the traditional view of Viking women as passive victims or domestic helpers, and provides evidence for their active participation in warfare. He also examines the cultural and social contexts that allowed women to play such roles, including the importance of kinship ties and the fluidity of gender roles in Viking society.
Impact on European Military Practices:
Finally, the book examines the impact of Viking warfare on the development of medieval European military practices. The Vikings were not only raiders and conquerors, but also traders and settlers, who established long-term relationships with their neighbors. Through these interactions, they influenced the military tactics, technologies, and strategies of the regions they visited and settled in. The author provides examples of this influence, including the adoption of Viking weapons and tactics by the Anglo-Saxons and the Normans.
“The Vikings and their Enemies” is a well-written and thoroughly researched book that provides a comprehensive and nuanced understanding of Viking warfare. The author’s critical examination of the sources, his exploration of the material culture of warfare, and his examination of the role of women and the impact of Viking warfare on European military practices all contribute to a richer and more complex understanding of this fascinating subject. While the book may be too detailed for casual readers, it will be of great interest to scholars and students of medieval history, military history, and Viking studies.