In recent years the Vikings have become ubiquitous. Making up for decades of confinement at the more academic end of the publishing spectrum, they have now colonised great swathes of our bookshops. A succession of popular works has revised and reoriented our view of these great Scandinavian raiders. It is a bold author who enters this suddenly crowded field with a general history, albeit one whose geographical focus is limited, but Thomas Williams’s Viking Britain still manages to more than hold its own.
At the outset Williams, who was project curator for the British Museum’s blockbuster exhibition on the Vikings in 2014, laments the public’s almost inexhaustible appetite for portrayals of the Norsemen as ‘big men with swords, crushing skulls left, right and centre’. It is his stated objective to rescue them from