A mans world: life in the Viking age

13 Apr 2010 00:00:00.000

PA 84/10

The macho world of the male Viking will be brought to life at an event taking place at The University of Nottingham later this month.  


The Midlands Viking Symposium 2010, taking place on Saturday April 24, will bring together some of the country’s leading experts to present the latest research findings on Viking culture and history.


This year’s theme Viking Masculinities will focus on what it meant to be a man in the Viking age and the programme of talks will cover some of the most recognisable symbols of Norse culture, including runestones, burial rituals and the passage of warriors into Valhalla.

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Professor Judith Jesch, Professor of Viking Studies in the School of English Studies at The University of Nottingham, said: “We’re all familiar with the Viking stereotype and the theme of the symposium this year is looking at how, as with many stereotypes, there is often a strong grounding in the truth.

“Women played an important role in Viking society — after all, every Viking warrior must have had a mother, most had a wife or a sister too. Despite that, in many aspects such as religion and warfare, it was still very much a man’s world.”

Among the highlights of this year’s programme will be a lecture by Professor James Graham-Campbell of the Institute of Archaeology at University College London, one of the UK’s leading authorities on Viking archaeology. His talk entitled  Dead Men Walking  will focus on the archaeology of Viking burials, in which warriors were interred with a full set of armour and weaponry to enable them to take their place in Valhalla and fight among the army of the Norse god Odin.

Dr Carl Phelpstead of Cardiff University will be examining how the advent of Christianity in Scandinavia brought with it a new age of male domination through the church in his talk on  The Masculine World of Bishop Laurentius of Hólar.

Nottingham’s Dr Christina Lee will speak on  Moving Men: Migrations Around the Irish Sea, which will discuss some of the Viking activities in Ireland, where the Vikings were not previously believed to have a strong foothold.

The importance of women in Viking society will be acknowledged by Dr Philip Shaw of the University of Leicester, whose lecture  Viking Thomasinas: Cross-Gender Name Elements in Viking Naming Practices  will look at the use of male name compounds in naming female Viking children. He will argue that the practice was employed to signal relationships between male and female relatives or to promote familial cohesion through marriage.

The event will also draw on research being produced by postgraduate students at Nottingham including John Quanrud, who will speak on the victim’s point of view in  Viking Armies Through Enemy Eyes: Scandinavians in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. His talk will examine the terminology used by the Anglo-Saxons to describe the Scandinavian invaders, who were variously known as the Danes, Norsemen and the Heathen Army.

The event will also feature an exhibition and talk by poet Tessa West, whose works in  The Other Vikings  focus on the important role of women in Viking society.

Organised by the universities of Nottingham, Birmingham and Leicester, the event is now in its sixth year and is open to the general public as well as the academic community.

Professor Jesch added: “We really want to stress that this event is open to all and we would welcome anyone with an interest in the Viking age, whatever their background. In previous years we have had a very varied audience — everyone from academics and students to primary school teachers and even Viking re-enactment enthusiasts.
“We strive to produce a stimulating programme that features talks from some of the country’s leading authorities on the subject, while also offering access to ideas coming out of current research by postgraduate students.”

The event will take place from 10am to 5pm on Saturday April 24 in the Lecture Theatre B62 of the Law and Social Sciences Building, no. 7 on this map:


It is best to enter the building from the Millennium Garden end, where parking is available. It costs £30 per person (£15 for students/unwaged), which includes registration, handouts, lunch, coffee and tea. Further details and a registration form can be found online at



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Notes to editors:  The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 100 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and the Times Higher Education-QS World University Rankings.
More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to RAE 2008, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranks the University 7th in the UK by research power. In 27 subject areas, the University features in the UK Top Ten, with 14 of those in the Top Five.

The University provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's “only truly global university”, it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation — School of Pharmacy), and was named ‘Entrepreneurial University of the Year’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2008.

Nottingham was designated as a Science City in 2005 in recognition of its rich scientific heritage, industrial base and role as a leading research centre. Nottingham has since embarked on a wide range of business, property, knowledge transfer and educational initiatives (www.science-city.co.uk) in order to build on its growing reputation as an international centre of scientific excellence. The University of Nottingham is a partner in Nottingham: the Science City.


Story credits

More information is available from Dr Christina Lee on +44 (0)115 846 7194, Christina.lee@nottingham.ac.uk

Emma Thorne

Emma Thorne - Media Relations Manager

Email: emma.thorne@nottingham.ac.uk Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5793 Location: University Park

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