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The Viking Heart

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Member Reviews

A well-written and exciting theorem on how the Vikings and the Norse peoples have influenced world affairs since bursting onto the scene post-Western Roman Empire. 

The author goes to great lengths, sometimes a bit too great for my tastes, to prove his ideas, some of which I question. Hard to fault this book though, it is incredibly readable and digestible as a history.
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In a tone that mixes historical saga with socio-cultural history, Arthur Herman brings an attempt to revisit the history of the Vikings and encounter what he terms as the Viking heart. He argues that the Vikings contributed so much to historical legacies in Europe, Asia, and America in so many ways that are previously unrecognised, through ideas, trades, etc. In his opinion, it was wrong to see the Vikings as a one-act drama of a barbaric tribe who lived by raids and voyages to neighbouring areas in Europe, before conveniently disappeared after the advent of Christianity in Scandinavia. Herman traces the legacies of the Vikings in no way ever attempted before, from the raid of the church in Lindisfarne in the 9th century into modern Scandinavia.

A common image of the Vikings is that they were barbarians who believed in paganism and plundered over other civilisations in Europe with little respect for the sanctity of Christian rites and artefacts, as shown through the infamous raid of Lindisfarne. Yet it’s this image that Herman tries to challenge by portraying the Vikings, or in other words, Old Norsemen in a rather different light through some recent findings in DNA research and archaeological excavations of the old Viking’s settlements. He provides an interesting introduction to the socio-cultural history of the Vikings through these recent findings, that they indeed valued courage in battle, loyalty, and leadership through example rather than birth or status, yet they were still peace-loving tribes who found comfort through dedication to one’s community and lived mainly by farming and trade, as opposed to their barbaric depictions.

There are frequent episodes in this historical saga in which Herman would describe the influence of the Vikings in shaping Medieval Europe, such as the rule of Rurik and his successors in shaping Novgorod and Kievan Rus that will, in turn, shape the history of Eastern Europe as the first Emperor unifying Russia, and also the Norman Conquest of England which will shape the history of England and continental Europe in the years to come. Interestingly, Herman also takes some cues of Christianisation of Scandinavia not as the end of the Viking age, yet as a way to connect the legacies of the Vikings into modern Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Iceland that continues to thrive as ‘the Viking heart’. During the Medieval era, the Nordic countries also became the ground for the Lutheran doctrine to flourish with its compatible philosophy that the sociologist Max Weber said as: “the valuation of the fulfilment of duty in worldly affairs as the highest form which the moral activity of the individual could assume.”

I can see where Arthur Herman came from, seeing how the legacies of the Vikings are still pretty much present in our day-to-day life, from the depictions of Viking’s characters and gods in various popular culture, films, video games, literature, etc, with probably inspired him to retrace the history of the Vikings through his idea of ‘the Viking heart’. The world is, indeed, owing so much of our progress to Scandinavian people. Their contributions are by no means minimum, we could cite names such as Alfred Nobel, Charles Lindbergh, Frijthof Nansen, etc, as people who have contributed so much to human history. Scandinavian way of life, home interior and furniture has now become the ideal of a good household to many people in our age.

The first half of the book is interesting, especially how Arthur Herman could connect the legacies of the Vikings with the thriving of Lutheran ethics. However, in some sense, the narrative seems to be exploited to invoke the feeling that the world owed so much progress to the Vikings and their descendants both in Europe and America. The facts being presented here are outstanding, however, I could not stomach the idea that history progressed solely by the role Scandinavians played in it, rather they are one of the important equations in this continuous saga. Arthur Herman says that the Nazis exploited the Nordic myth into their own agenda and misinterpreted it to invent the myth about the master Aryan race in Europe. However, I also sensed a concealed chauvinist message in this book’s narrative, especially when it touches upon the subject of Scandinavian’s roles in shaping the United States’ society and countering Nazi Germany during World War II, which leaves this book with contradictory stances. Although, I'd praise Arthur Herman's meticulous research that is really eye-opening about the legacies of the Vikings.
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This was an amazing look into a family history, but also a history of migration, traditions, and generations. The Vikings themselves were nomadic people until at once they settled, and they also brought their mysterious traditions to America. They are a tribe that is good at assimilating ... or do they? Congrats to the author on a job well done.
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What do you think when you hear the word Vikings?   A football team.  This book isn’t about the football team, It tells in part about the original people that were called Vikings due to their strength, fighting expertise and more. The countries they came from were Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland.  It was due to the people who knew how to survive in such hard areas.  They traveled to Europe and east Eurasia.  They even visited the Romans who at first didn’t realize who the Vikings were.  The Vikings then became traders and finally settlers.  The history is amazing.  When they started immigrating to the United States, they did so due to population growth and poverty.   The author goes on to give the important contributions given to The United States.  He also gives information on how “Vikings”  (Scandinavians) contributed to the Civil War.  There are also biographies of famous Scandinavian Americans.  According to the authors, Scandinavian nations became some of the worlds wealthiest besides becoming more socially progressive.  

Though this is an excellent book, this is only the beginning of the unknown history of Scandinavia.  I enjoyed reading it especially about the contributions and the biographies.  If you are a Scandinavian American, this is an excellent book to read and enjoy.
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This book begins dramatically with the terror of the Viking raid on the monastery at Lindisfarne. The Vikings are regarded as a fierce and indeed, rather nasty lot with their savage attacks. However, this book paints a different picture of them, presenting a nicer side. They were not only fierce warriors, but great explorers, traders and farmers.They may have been barbarians once, but they eventually learned Christian values. Most of all, they had courage - the courage to endure great hardships, wars and to settle far from their homelands.

Herman theorises that 'the Viking heart' endured for centuries, and still exists today in European culture and in the countries settled by Europeans. Even today he argues that this Viking heart helped the Scandinavians manage to live fairly normally and even thrive during the pandemic (unlike my homeland beset by devastating lockdowns and border closures). He even attributes Lutheranism to this Viking heart. He presents the argument well, and this is an inspiring book. I especially liked the part about Tolkien, being a big Tolkien fan. However, I wonder if the effect of the Vikings on history is exaggerated here.

I received this free ebook from NetGalley in return for an honest review.

EDITION	Other Format
ISBN	9781328595904
PRICE	$30.00 (USD)
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The Viking Heart covers a lot of material, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but left me feeling the book was a bit uneven. There would be a chapter that was absolutely fascinating to me, and I would want more, but then the next chapter would be less interesting (yet another Viking battle dissected in what felt like excruciating detail - eventually they all seemed basically the same). This book is accessible, engaging and fascinating - perfect for getting a good overview of Viking history and culture.
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This is a deep dive into Scandinavian history by an American historian who traces his own ancestry to the region.

It was broader than I expected. About half of the book is about the era that readers will traditionally associate with the Vikings. Herman shows how climactic shifts triggered migrations from Scandinavia into Northern Europe at the dawn of history, and throughout Europe and North Africa in the Dark Ages. Along with sympathetic assessments of the Viking (the word was more of a job title, aka "raider" or "pirate") incursions into England and Ireland, Herman highlights technological, legal and social developments connected to the Norsemen and women.

The last third of the book, follows the Scandinavian migrations to America during its first 150 years. Drawing on experiences of his own immigrant ancestors, Herman shows how Scandinavians settled the upper midwestern United States, fought for the Union in the Civil War, and contributed to the effort in World War II. He also features Scandinavian-American heroes like Knute Rockne, Charles Lindburgh.

Even though I, myself, have Scandinavian heritage, I found the book to be tedious, too detailed. I think a better editor would have made this more Viking-focused and less about Scandinavia and then Scandinavian-Americans. Still, I would recommend this as a gift for those who have friends and relatives of Scandinavian descent. It is not for those with merely a casual interest, however. 

Special thanks to NetGalley for a copy of the galley in return for this honest review.
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This is a fascinating book.I’m a novice when it comes to Scandinavian history so I enjoy seeing their impact.Due to the amount of information and the time span a more limited scope might work better. It has given me topics to research.
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This book has a LOT of information!  My ancestors are Norwegian so it was of particular interest to me, but I think many people will find it fascinating no matter what their background.  It's obviously very well-researched and covers a multitude of subjects.
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As someone not intimately familiar with Viking history I found this book to be a well written, extremely detailed historical accounting. It was a little more detail than I bargained for, however I feel that many will appreciate the information as presented. A good solid over view if you are interested in deepening your knowledge of Scandinavia and Vikings role in development.

**I received an electronic ARC from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review of this book.
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In The Viking Heart, Arthur Herman presents a compelling historical book full of archaeological and DNA research to trace the epic story of this remarkable and diverse set of people. 
It's interesting and informative, full of facts, raids, culture, things I didn't know about.
A fascinating read.
My thanks go to the author, publisher and Netgalley in providing this arc in return for a honest review.
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This is my first nonfiction-historical book review., although I am a lover of history, particularly Viking history. 
Even though historically presented as fierce, destructive and violent people, Arthur Herman shows how Scandinavian people were gentle, community driven farmers, serving of themselves. They enjoyed an abundant life as worked hard for the greater good of their people. But their desire for more drove them to the outreaches of the world as they voyaged to new lands in search of “more”. This is how they became powerful, sustained their growing population and even became feared. 

This book offers a great depiction into the many years that evolved and was a lot to comprise into a short book, although a job well done by the author,

The Herman  also touches lightly on the topic of woman and their contribution to their people, and the role they played in the history of the Vikings. 

I think the author could create other spin-off books delving a bit deeper into this vast history of the Viking people. 

I enjoyed this book and would like to thank Mariner Books publishing and NetGalley for an advanced ecopy for review.
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This is a well-researched book covering a LOT of ground related to Scandinavian history.  From 400CE to current times, covering the movements of the Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian Vikings - there is a lot of information here.  It can be a bit daunting, trying to keep up with all of the names, the routes they took, the people they conquered.

Really good reference for true history buffs, but a bit deep for anyone with casual interest.  The ancient history takes awhile to get through, so anyone more interested in the more modern impacts to society may get lost on the journey.

I would have liked to see the author rely a little less on his personal connections in the very early part of hte book, and keeping the historical journey more linear would have made it a bit easier to follow, but I can't question his depth of research and his thoroughness.

#NetGalley #TheVikingHeart
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This non-fiction book is a bit of a departure for me. A lot of my friends are into historical fiction but the WWII books don’t interest me that much so why not read about Vikings?

This was a pretty decent introduction to all things Viking. The author couched his narrative in terms of the Viking heart - their strength, resilience, loyalty all that good stuff because, as it turns out, they is no racial purity that can be ascribed to them. Poor old Hitler got it wrong with the idea of Aryan superiority, the Vikings were very much a mixture of peoples. Yes, they were fearsome warriors but they were also farmers and community minded. After winning territory with their raids they settled on the land and inter-married with the locals. What did surprise me was the reach of their expeditions. I hadn’t realised they had gotten to the Middle East and almost made it to China!

Anyway, the book covers a huge amount of information, far too much to summarise here but, as I said, it’s a very decent accounting of the whole Viking story. It does focus later on the impact they had on America which might be more interesting to American readers. I do recommend the book however to anyone who wants to know about these very interesting people. Many thanks to the publisher, via Netgalley for the much appreciated ARC which I reviewed voluntarily and honestly.
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The Viking Heart by Arthur Herman is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early July.

Woo, part of my lineage - through my dad's side of the family and as a Minnesotan - and the journey of Eivor the Wolf-Kissed from Assassin's Creed Valhalla. As it turns out, vikings have had a hand in several different global situations, whether through religion, leadership, commerce, battle, conquest, sea travel, or academics. However, it's loosely chronological as it pulls from historical research and myth, then scatters about in future implications. Likewise, each chapter is like walking hesitantly, then with reassurance, then lagging back to start again at a new chapter with a different topic.
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Herman has written an interesting, solid history, including information from archaeology, the sagas, and DNA about the Vikings that shows their complexities but is also accessible to people who are unfamiliar with Norse history or frankly usually uninterested in history.  He goes beyond that to follow Scandinavia through the centuries down to the modern times but not in as much depth.  Instead, he highlights the times when Scandinavia was important to “saving” Catholic and later Protestant Europe as well as providing a conduit for Arab knowledge that would help transform medieval Europe into the Renaissance.  

The most surprising aspect of this book is the history of the impact of Scandinavians on American history.  Not only is there discussion about the colonies Sweden established here but also the importance of the Scandinavians during the Civil War.  He spends the most time on the impact of American-Scandinavians in the time leading up to and during WWII.  Not all of these people showed the best impulses of the human spirit.  However, I was most interested in how important a few people were in getting U.S. private manufacturing companies switched over to producing the goods necessary to win WWII.  

The theme of the “Viking heart” runs throughout the book.  At the core of this is courage, daring, loyalty and resilience.  He attributes many of the accomplishments of Scandinavians to this phenomenon.  However, the characteristics of the Viking heart changed over time, with the influence of Christianity, to something that was less bloody than before with more of a concern for individuals and society as a whole.  At different times he adds qualities to the Viking heart but does not reinforce them in the conclusion so it is a little unclear exactly his final definition of the Viking heart.     

One thing he makes clear is that he does not believe that the “Viking heart” has a racial component.  He completely disavows the use of it by Hitler and by Neo-Nazis groups today.  In fact, he stresses that many other groups share the characteristics of the “Viking heart” and have made equal contribution to society.  The Vikings themselves were not one united racial group.  They were a mix.  

Herman makes some sweeping statements but does not always support them with enough evidence.  For example, he claims that Saint Brigitte of Sweden, Queen Ingeborg of Norway and Queen Margaret of Denmark transformed their countries and arguably Europe itself.   That they had an impact and an influence is not in doubt but the statement that they transformed their countries, much less, Europe is not borne out in his narrative.  He does not give evidence much less prove their lasting impact.

He also includes some information about his own family, particularly what they did in the American Civil War.  They weren’t major movers or shakers and he doesn’t pretend they are.  It can be a little jarring with the inserted personal history in the middle of the more neutral presentation of the narrative history.  Some people might find this touching and way to make the history not so boring.  I was a little jolted out of the flow.

Overall, a solid history with some information that I did not know about.  It shows that Vikings were much more than just marauding killers; they traveled further and had a much greater impact in areas than many people know.  The later history is also interesting and Scandinavia did not just disappear from the world stage when the Vikings “disappeared” into the sunset.  There are some weaknesses in Herman’s arguments but it is a satisfying and informative book.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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The Viking Heart: How Scandinavians Conquered the World by Arthur Herman is a highly recommended history of the Vikings, their influence in Europe and beyond, and eventually how the mind set of the Scandinavians influenced American history. This is a history written with ties to Herman's own family heritage.

As most people know the Vikings, Norwegians, Danes, Finns, and Swedes, were raiders who sparked terror across Europe and east Eurasia for more than two centuries after 780 C.E. and shaped the history of these areas before they settled down to becoming settlers and traders. These Norsemen were never part of one national identity and represented a very small population, which makes their impact even more interesting. What set them apart was that where ever they went they brought with them a certain attitude, way of life, and mythology. Herman also shares archaeological and DNA research to trace the movements and reach of the Vikings.

As this is a history focused on Scandinavians, the peoples comprising these countries are the focus of the book. Their bold actions, raids, travels, movements, mythology, communities, families, inventiveness, and adventurous spirit are the focus of the history from the early time of the Viking to the contributions of settlers in America. Once in America, Herman covers the role the role these settlers played in American history along with several famous descendants of Scandinavian ancestry. The part that many Scandinavians will stand up and applaud is the clear presentation of how Snorri Sturluson's Eddas and guide to Old Norse Mythology influenced so many parts of popular culture today, especially Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.

The narrative is very accessible to readers wanting a basic account of Vikings and their descendants in America rather than an encyclopedic history of all things Viking and Scandinavian. Those who are looking for a complete in-depth examination of the history can look for further information, but a causal reader will appreciate this presentation. Herman states that he wrote this book to examine and pay homage to his ancestors, so he does make the book personal, naming his Scandinavian relatives and sharing personal family stories. The volume includes chapter notes and an index, as well as photographs.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HMH Books.
The review will be published on Barnes & Noble, Google Books, and submitted to Amazon.
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I received this book from the publisher through Netgalley for review and all thoughts and opinions are my own.
New York Times bestselling author of "How the Scots Invented the Modern World" now tackles the Scandinavian history and culture. In this fine book, he blends history and other research to reveal the culture, background and conquest mentality of the people we commonly refer to as Viking. He explores the depths of their strength of resolve and the landscape around them, the desire of conquest for previous metals and the hopes and dreams of a nation of warriors. What you may have thought about the Vikings is only a minute portion of what they are. Enjoyable book on a culture and peoples of infinite value through many nations of today. Highly recommend to fans of Norse mythology, Tolkien, history and archaeology, religious scholars and ancestry enthusiasts.
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First, a disclaimer: I received this e-book in advance of publication in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own opinions. Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with this book. 

Vikings have always interested me. I think they interest most people. In this book, Herman explores the history and legacy of Vikings in a general way that spans thousands of years of history. I will first admit that history is not my normal genre for non-fiction reads. It seems that everything in history revolves around wars and battles and this book definitely had that as a predominant feature as well. But it did also explore DNA research and some culture and traditions. I enjoyed the pictures that were inserted and I enjoyed the cultural bits. I think that it skimmed over the darker things like slavery and colonization though and the book was, as a whole, definitely pro-Scandinavian… which makes sense because the author inserted a lot of his own genealogy and heritage into the story. While I learned a lot from this book, I found the family history to be a little dull. Honestly, the genealogy of the author holds zero interest to me. But I understand that it held a lot of interest to him. I also would have liked to see more science and culture and traditions built in, but I think that is likely a different book. This is more of a general overview than something that focuses on any specific time period. I cannot say that I LOVED this book, but it wasn’t bad and I know some history buffs that would love this and read it more than once. If you are a fan of history, interested in Vikings, and are descended from Scandinavians, I think that there is a good chance that this book is for you. 

Star Rating: NA
Pages: 512
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There is an abundance of books about Scandinavian history on the market these days, but this is, by far, the most expansive. Starting back in prehistory and running through time - giving a solid pause in recounting stories of immigrants to the US and Canada in the 1800s and 1900s - this book feels like it should lose its footing in all the ground it covers. Instead, it does the opposite. Much like the Vikings of the Viking age, this ship stays its course but does seem to hit choppy water once it reaches the chapters on WWII and [in]famous Scandinavian descendants of the early 1900s. The author leans in too hard on the sanitization of some 1st generation Scandinavians with checkered pasts, namely Lindbergh and Volstead (yes, of that certain prohibitive act).

Education, and its importance amongst Scandinavians and their descendants in the US, could be argued as a vital part of the Viking heart. I was disappointed to see very few words about the colleges and universities set up by those of Viking descent here in the US alone. Luther College, a few seminaries, and St. Olaf are mentioned in passing but no words dedicated to the other Scandinavian (and Lutheran) established halls of higher learning.

Despite these quibbles, this is a sprawling, fascinating read where little nuggets of info pop up in unusual places (for example, did you know the Thames was once an ancient tributary to the Rhine?) and I found myself highlighting a lot! 

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