The Vikings

A New History
Narrated by: James A. Gillies
Length: 11 hrs and 59 mins
Categories: History, Europe
4.5 out of 5 stars (181 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The Vikings famously took no prisoners, relished cruel retribution, and prided themselves on their bloodthirsty skills as warriors. But their prowess in battle is only a small part of their story, which stretches from their Scandinavian origins to America in the West and as far as Baghdad in the East. As the Vikings did not write their own history, we have to discover it for ourselves; and that discovery, as Neil Oliver reveals, tells an extraordinary story of a people who, from the brink of destruction, reached a quarter of the way around the globe and built an empire that lasted nearly 200 years.

Drawing on the latest discoveries that have only recently come to light, Scottish archaeologist Neil Oliver goes on the trail of the real Vikings. Where did they emerge from? How did they really live? And just what drove them to embark on such extraordinary voyages of discovery over 1,000 years ago? The Vikings: A New History explores many of those questions for the first time in an epic story of one of the world's great empires of conquest.

©2013 Neil Oliver (P)2017 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"Anyone interested in finding out more about these real-life raiders will enjoy everything Oliver reveals." ( Publishers Weekly)

What listeners say about The Vikings

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    4 out of 5 stars

Intriguing for a broad audience.

The book is pretty well structured and for the most part keeps up the intrigue as it balances between exploring microcosms of the culture and it’s broader view in history. You don’t have to be a historian or fanatic to be drawn in by Oliver’s journey through the history of Vikings and abroad. The narrator’s style too I think is an excellent fit.

My personal interest in Viking and Scandinavian history was peaked from Vikings(2011-) on History Channel and part of what made this book so interesting was learning about the actual legends and events that inspired the show’s characters which have been, in my opinion, ingeniously compressed into a few generations for the sake of a cohesive narrative. If that’s what brought you to this book, it’s a must read. You’ll recognize dozens of familiar names, places, events and learn about their actual course in history. Being a fan of the show and then discovering this book hooked me because it transferred my interest from the simplified exaggerations of a tv show into their story in reality, which I’ve found is surprisingly the greater adventure of the two.

8 people found this helpful

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One of the best history books I’ve listened to on Audible

I cannot speak highly enough about both the quality of the writing and of the narration for this book. Neil Oliver is both friendly and informative. He is not afraid to relate his personal experiences during his travels to compile the history of the Viking Age. Their delivery by James A. Gillies pulls you into each chapter and has the effect of making this book feel more like a close chat with a good friend then a dry lecture on the early Middle Ages. Easy to follow, well researched, and ultimately a must have for anyone that enjoys listening to history like I do.

5 people found this helpful

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Good pre-travel read for your Scandinavia Trip

Any additional comments?

As a whole, this audio version of Neil Oliver’s Vikings: A New History qualifies as a fun, informative, and thought-provoking listen, as well as a good companion for those (like me) who have been hooked by the History Channel’s television series, Vikings. It very clearly belongs to the genre of books we call “popular history,” and is probably best suited for either a young audience or for those who are planning a trip to Scandinavia or the British Isles and want to liven up their experience. The book has its pros and cons, naturally. Its rather lengthy historical preamble to the rise of the Vikings (harking back the end of the Pleistocene) and its discussion of the broader political context at the time of their rise (the splitting of the Roman Empire, and the rise of a Muslim Near East and Latin Catholic West) seems at first to be a giant wayward tangent, but most of the time ends up right on point. The unfortunate effect of this, however, is that what the reader recalls from the book in the long run might relate more to broader European history than to the Viking Age itself. A much more annoying distraction comes from Oliver’s literary structure and style, which is reinforced by James Gillies’ (pleasant enough) narration. Oliver begins each chapter with a vignette recounting his own personal thoughts, feelings, and experiences while out looking for old Viking relics, and although this feels somewhat useful at first, it grows tiresome and boring after a few chapters. The underlying tone is that of a pipe-smoking grandfather telling old fairy tales to wide-eyed children sitting around the hearth. It is thus more befitting of a Disney movie than a serious book about history. By the book’s end, I can say I know far more about the Vikings than I did before, but only because I knew so very little before. In my case, as with others just beginning to study the Vikings, Oliver’s book may indeed be worth reading. But if you are a serious amateur historian, be prepared to be annoyed, and don’t expect to be fully satisfied. A book of this length could be a lot more than this.

11 people found this helpful

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Vikings is a Must Read

I am a big Neil Oliver fan. His history of Scotland is fantastic. This is even better. In part what makes this so riveting are his personal reflections based upon actual site visits. His descriptions of the traditional foods as well as his own personal assessments of their smell and tastes are magnificent and made me laugh out loud. My commute to work has been very enjoyable.

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Informative. A whole new look at Viking history

Very thorough and informative work. Not thrilling, but solidly interesting. You will leave with a wealth of knowledge from 2000 years of Northern European history surrounding the rise and assimilation of the Vikings.

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Great listen! <br />

I was very pleased with the prehistoric background. The back story placed the primary details in the perfect context.

5 people found this helpful

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Neil Oliver delivers another great one!

Neil Oliver is as great an author as he is a TV Documentary maker. Unfortunately the book is narrated by a pretentious sounding Englishman. I normally love, and I mean love (I have a degree in British history and I travel there for pleasure every other year) all things British. I just got the sense the the narrator was using his accent to show off. I personally would have loved for Neil Oliver to Narrate it himself!!!! But my parents can't understand him at all so I don't know if the average American can or not, I don't have any trouble but I go to Scotland a lot. The story is full of interesting and funny side notes like what Neil found it like to eat Viking fish dishes (we aren't talking about salted cod lol) or what its really like to sail the open seas in a long boat (hint: miserable). This book weaves history with anthropology and archaeology in a beautiful and seamlessly entertaining way that will make you want to listen to it more than once!!

1 person found this helpful

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Boring

should be called "an archeological history of vikings" longwinded, and boring. very little is revealed of the internal history of vikings. lots of cultural information though.

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very informative

Lots of facts that are missing from the Hollywood versions. I found it very informative and interesting the difference between what actually happened and what Hollywood has come up with in the series the Vikings.

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A wild trip

A thoughtful and impressive look back at an interesting people. The narration is phenomenal and the story is great!