Course No. 3910
Professor Kenneth W. Harl, Ph.D.
Tulane University
Share This Course
4.5 out of 5
210 Reviews
85% of reviewers would recommend this product
Course No. 3910
Streaming Included Free

What Will You Learn?

  • numbers Examine who the Vikings were based on relics and archaeological finds.
  • numbers Investigate the Norse religions, which were integral to Scandinavian life and united many communities.
  • numbers Explore Scandinavian poems, literature, and mythology to see how memories were preserved.
  • numbers Take a deep dive into the legacy of Cnut the Great, his period of rule, and the collapse of his empire.

Course Overview

As explorers and traders, the Vikings played a decisive role in the formation of Latin Christendom, and particularly of Western Europe. In this course, you will study the Vikings not only as warriors, but also in other roles for which they were equally extraordinary: merchants, artists, kings, raiders, seafarers, shipbuilders, and creators of a remarkable literature of myths and sagas.

Professor Kenneth Harl synthesizes insights from an astonishing array of sources: The Russian Primary Chronicle (a Slavic text from medieval Kiev), 13th-century Icelandic poems and sagas, Byzantine accounts, Arab geographies, annals of Irish monks who faced Viking raids, Roman reports, and scores of other firsthand contemporary documents.

Among the topics you will explore in depth are the profound influence of the Norse gods and heroes on Viking culture, and the Vikings' extraordinary accomplishments as explorers and settlers in Iceland, Greenland, and Vinland. With the help of archeological findings, you will learn to analyze Viking ship burials, runestones and runic inscriptions, Viking wood carving, jewelry, sculpture, and metalwork.

From 790–1066, virtually invincible Viking fleets fanned out across Europe, raiding, plundering, and overwhelming every army that opposed them.

By 1100, however, the Vikings had disappeared, having willingly shed their identity and dissolved into the mists of myth and legend. How did this happen, and how should we remember this formidable civilization that, for being so formative, proved so transient?

A Wide-Ranging Story, a Versatile Historian

The Vikings were a people whose history stretched from the Vinland settlements in Newfoundland to Baghdad. Accordingly, the telling of their story requires a historian of Professor Harl's considerable powers.

As he has shown in his other Teaching Company courses, The World of Byzantium, Great Ancient Civilizations of Asia Minor, The Era of the Crusades, and Rome and the Barbarians, Dr. Harl has a special knowledge of Europe and the Near East, from antiquity through the Middle Ages. His expertise on nearly all of the peoples the Vikings encountered enables him to endow his lectures with the nuance and detail only a trained specialist can deliver.

The Past Is Never Dead: Scandinavian Beginnings

Professor Harl begins with a virtual tour of the unique Scandinavian terrain that determined that Viking civilization would be a culture like no other, a land and people apart from the rest of the world. Scandinavia was cut off by dense forests that kept individual settlements isolated from one another. The Scandinavian way of life was inherently temporary, for agriculture would not progress beyond the slash-and-burn technique until the end of the Viking Age. Villages lasted only a generation before soil exhaustion forced their abandonment, negating the possibility of permanent towns or lasting structures, political or otherwise. Anyone seeking wealth rather than mere subsistence had to look to the sea.

In this early part of the course you will also study in great detail the origins of the Vikings' ancient Germanic religion. You will learn the stories of the Norse gods and how the Vikings sought to honor them.

The lectures also examine how Scandinavians venerated their ancestors, great heroes of the past whom they emulated in life. Professor Harl demonstrates how we can glean the ambitions of the great Viking sea kings by examining the legendary exploits of their role models, such as the saga of the great ride of Hrolf Kraki, the 6th-century king of legendary Hleidr, a great Danish hall.

The Viking Edge

But culture only takes us so far. The Viking Age would have been impossible had the Scandinavians not possessed superiority in shipbuilding and warfare, and Professor Harl devotes two in-depth lectures to this achievement.

You will explore in detail how the design features of Viking ships allowed them to ride the waters rather than fight the waves, to be dragged across land from river to river, and to be beached in any port and sail almost anywhere. Many Viking victories resulted from the fact that their ships could sail several times faster than opposing armies could move on foot.

Contrary to the stereotype of slashing homicidal maniacs in horned helmets, Professor Harl discusses a precise, organized, battle-hardened army of men trained in warfare since boyhood. Vikings were extraordinarily fit, skilled in boarding ships, in leaping and jumping, archery, swordsmanship, and the wielding of axes. Even more frightful, they were fearless, regarding battle as a state of ecstatic joy and expecting thrill in victory or glory in Valhalla as they rushed at their foes.

Traders and Raiders

Viking warfare wasn't driven by any primitive, atavistic malice, or undirected rage. To them, it just made economic sense. We go a long way towards understanding Scandinavians' motivation and debunking popular stereotypes by seeing Viking raids as a logical extension of trading activities.

You will follow the Vikings as merchants who exploited trade routes in the Baltic, the North Sea, and on the river systems of Western Europe. They operated from the Arctic to the Mediterranean, selling everything from sealskin, whalebone, and amber to slaves.

Raiding was simply trade by other means. Vikings raided towns throughout the Latin West, and then set up impromptu markets to sell back the booty. They were indeed shocked to find a novel commodity in abbots whom the Christians paid handsomely to get back.

In Professor Harl's lectures we see the great adaptability of these Scandinavians, their willingness to evolve according to their local environment. Consider the divergent fortunes and destinies of just a few of the Northern peoples that left their Scandinavian homeland:

  • Under a deal negotiated with King Charles the Simple by their sea king Hrolf, the Vikings were awarded land in Normandy in exchange for protecting the Franks. Hrolf's descendants preserved their military prowess; they conquered England and Italy, eventually cutting off their ties to the sea and adopting the French language.
  • Swedish Vikings, known as "Rus," established outposts in Kiev and Novgorod. They used their Slavic subjects to clear the forests, allowing market towns to evolve into great cities, and a Rus king, Vladimir, would adopt Christianity as the official religion of the Rus state.
  • In a lightning campaign, the mostly Danish Great Army conquered three English kingdoms from 865–878 and settled in the northern half of England. They exerted a profound influence, transmitting 600 words into modern English and innovating the jury system that eventually passed into English law.

Because stereotypical images of the Vikings have long obscured the Vikings' importance in European history, you may learn something new in nearly every minute of these lectures. Did you know that:

  • We have Iceland to thank for preserving most of our information about what a pure Viking society was like. Icelanders preserved the old Norse traditions through storytelling during the long Icelandic winters. They eventually wrote down these poems, myths, and legends to create literature considered to be one of the miracles of the Middle Ages, deserving a place beside the Greek and Roman classics in the Western tradition.
  • Iceland functioned successfully without cities, taxes, or a complex government. You will study the simple yet effective political system—the Thing, the Althing, and the Law Rock—that made Viking Iceland a remarkable experiment in self-government.
  • An early Icelandic settler, Helgi the Lean, once remarked with characteristic Viking pragmatism and typical Icelandic wit, "On land I worship Christ, but at sea I worship Thor." A jest though it may have been, it seems prescient in light of the Scandinavian tendency to slough off the ancient gods at the water's edge.

The Beginnings of Modern Scandinavia

In the last part of the course, Professor Harl discusses how a variety of factors—wealth gained through Viking adventures, the creation of ever more professional Viking armies, increasingly better ships, and notably, conversion to Christianity—enabled Scandinavian monarchs to impose control and set up territorial kingdoms.

The creation of kingdoms and national churches was a testimony to the organizational skills of the Scandinavians, who lacked a history that connected them to the benefits of urban-based Roman civilization.

Who were the Vikings? Much more, perhaps, than you may have thought: raiders, seafarers, kings, and writers, a people who truly defined the history of Europe, and whose brave, adventurous, and creative spirit still survives today.

Hide Full Description
36 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    The Vikings in Medieval History
    Hostile Christian sources demonize the Vikings; Muslim accounts render them exotic; and recent revisionist historians downplay the impact of Norse raids. Archeological finds such as ship burials, coin hoards, and human remains, combined with close study of the Norse sagas of Iceland, can enrich and balance our understanding of Scandinavia's place in medieval history. x
  • 2
    Land and People of Medieval Scandinavia
    Scandinavia's landscape shaped its culture. Dense forestation led to small, close-knit communities, skill in woodworking, and to sailing as the primary means of long-distance transport. Long, harsh winters engendered skill in cold-weather travel, a unique cosmology, and the emergence of great halls where storytelling and hospitality traditions were born. x
  • 3
    Scandinavian Society in the Bronze Age
    The physical evidence, expertly interpreted, paints a compelling picture of the Bronze Age in Scandinavia (2300–450 B.C.) Viking ancestors traded Arctic goods, amber, and slaves in exchange for foreign copper and tin to produce impressive bronze objects. New wealth fostered larger villages led by chieftains. A gilt bronze sun chariot, rock tracings, and other material culture indicate the beginnings of the Norse pantheon. x
  • 4
    Scandinavia in the Celtic and Roman Ages
    Scandinavia fed off of trade with the Celts (450–50 B.C.) importing improved cart, ship, and metalworking technology. Contact with Rome (c. 50 B.C.–A.D. 400) enriched the upper classes with fine silver, ceramics, and glass. More ominously, Scandinavians returning from Roman military service brought back advanced weapons and armor. Petty kings surrounded by loyal bands of warriors emerged, along with the first Scandinavian sailing ships that would soon take them abroad. x
  • 5
    The Age of Migrations
    Between 400–700, as the Roman political order collapsed in Western Europe, Scandinavians poured in: Anglo-Saxons in England, Franks in Gaul, Swedish Goths in Italy and Spain, Danes in Frisia. Cultural ties were so close that Scandinavian legends celebrated legendary West Germanic figures for centuries. But in the 7th and 8th centuries, Christianization and linguistic change transformed these immigrants into separate peoples, targets for Viking raids. x
  • 6
    The Norse Gods
    Norse religion was integral to Scandinavian life. A creation myth tells of primeval frozen wastes and sacred trees. The pantheon contained gods of war (Odin), sky (Thor), and fertility (Frey and Freya). The afterlife in Valhalla and other great halls was a reward for great deeds. Worship of these gods, and veneration of the ancestors united communities and separated them from Christendom. x
  • 7
    Runes, Poetry, and Visual Arts
    As a non-urbanized culture, Viking society expressed its visual genius in elaborate woodcarving and intricate jewelry, not architecture. Gods were represented by charming cult statues and contacted through magical runic drawings. Without writing, great myths and legends were transmitted in great halls by poets, playing a harp and composing spontaneous, witty, and metrical verse. x
  • 8
    Legendary Kings and Heroes
    The Epic of Beowulf (c. 675–725) and The Saga of Hrolf Kraki (c. 13th century) look back to the 6th century when legendary kings of Denmark and Sweden ruled from great halls and won great victories, albeit without the Viking longships of the 9th and 10th centuries. These figures were role models and inspirations to the sea kings and territorial rulers of the Viking Age. x
  • 9
    A Revolution in Shipbuilding
    Without the advances in shipbuilding that occurred in the 9th and 10th centuries, Viking success in raiding and trading would have been impossible. Viking vessels evolved from the earliest paddleboats to the great cargo and war ships that carried Viking goods and armies farther and faster than anyone else in the Medieval world. x
  • 10
    Warfare and Society in the Viking Age
    Swords, bows and arrows, javelins, spears, and axes made up the Viking arsenal, but their greatest weapon was unit cohesion. Trained since youth, they were expert in winter travel and foraging, the building of fortifications, and coordinated attack in advanced formations like the "shield wall." The Great Army of 865–878 showed that, when massed together by the thousands, they could virtually conquer all of England. x
  • 11
    Merchants and Commerce in the Viking Age
    From 675–840, Western economic and political activity revived, fueled by improved agriculture, growing towns and monasteries, and renewed Mediterranean trade. But it was the need for slaves in the Islamic world that led Vikings to pioneer extensions of this trade, southwest to Islamic Spain and southeast to Constantinople and Baghdad. Cosmopolitan market towns in Scandinavia eventually became sources of royal revenue and seats of royal power. x
  • 12
    Christendom on the Eve of the Viking Age
    The Carolingian Empire, which had actually conquered Germanic peoples under Charlemagne, possessed the economic and military strength to challenge the Vikings. But partition in 843 and civil conflicts between the nobles weakened Carolingian defenses, even as Frankish prosperity invited Viking raids. England and Ireland had cultural and economic ties to the Latin West through their vibrant and prosperous monasteries, but no means to resist attack. x
  • 13
    Viking Raids on the Carolingian Empire
    Vikings raided the Carolingian Empire throughout the 9th century, disrupting trade routes and depleting imperial coffers through the extraction of tribute (Danegeld). Local vassals stepped into the power void and claimed fiefs, while veteran Viking companies put down roots in the empire at fortified camps and bases. The axis of trade shifted away from the weakened empire, towards Scandinavia. x
  • 14
    The Duchy of Normandy
    In 911, Frankish king Charles the Simple faced the Viking sea king Hrolf and a massive Viking fleet en route to Paris. With no money to offer as ransom, Charles offered Hrolf the land around the town of Rouen. Hrolf's warriors, and their families and descendants, forged the powerful feudal state of Normandy that would later found two great feudal kingdoms. x
  • 15
    Viking Assault on England
    Vikings had been merchants in England for centuries when the first Viking raid destroyed Lindisfarne in 793. Viking raids climaxed in the Great Army's methodical ravaging of southern England and the Midlands from 865–878. They conquered three English kingdoms, but the fourth, led by Alfred the Great, fortified itself militarily and fiscally, preserving its independence. x
  • 16
    The Danelaw
    Many Danes settled in the northern areas of England conquered by the Great Army. In the 9th and 10thth centuries, Anglo-Danish rule brought prosperity and lasting changes in language, customs, and legal institutions. But in adopting Christianity and becoming a landed class, these Danes also surrendered their Viking identity and, with shocking docility, accepted the rule of the kings of Wessex by 954. x
  • 17
    Viking Assault on Ireland
    In 432–433, St. Patrick brought Roman Christianity to Ireland, but not Roman government. So in the Viking Age Ireland possessed great, learned, clan-supported monasteries surrounded by chieftain-led tribes. Norse Vikings devastated the monasteries, dominated the river systems and coastal ports, and co-opted local chieftains, transforming Ireland into a hub for the slave trade to Muslim Spain. x
  • 18
    Norse Kings of Dublin and Ireland
    In 917, Hiberno-Norse kings reestablished rule over Dublin and its hinterland, and many key ports. With Norse immigration in decline, however, they lacked the numbers to dominate the island. Cooperation, intermarriage, and assimilation marked Norse-Irish relations. Irish king Mael Sechlainn's victory over the Norse at Tara in 980 cemented their secondary position thereafter. x
  • 19
    The Settlement of Iceland
    Iceland filled with settlers between 870–930. Some sought relief from an overcrowded Norway, some sought free land, and others desired freedom from the tyrannical Norwegian king Harald Finehair. On this remote, barely habitable island just below the Arctic Circle, a purely Scandinavian experiment in self-government produced a remarkably independent society of free farmsteads, minimally governed by assemblies of free men. x
  • 20
    Iceland—A Frontier Republic
    The rugged terrain of Iceland necessitated egalitarianism. As men left home to hunt, fish, and tend pastures, women ran the households, handled legal settlements, and even acted as delegate chieftains. Law was informal, and justice "face to face," adjudicated by a trusted member of the community. These traditions persisted for centuries, even after timber depletion and civic unrest rendered the island dependent on Norwegian support and accepting of Norwegian rule. x
  • 21
    Skaldic Poetry and Sagas
    Icelanders preserved memories of their Scandinavian homeland and transmitted tales of the ancient Germanic gods through recited poems, consistent with an oral culture in which even law was recited publicly from memory. From the 10th century onward, literature became ever more ornate and sophisticated, culminating in the great written works of the 12th-14th centuries: the collections of Norse poetry and mythology, and the prose sagas. x
  • 22
    Western Voyages to Greenland and Vinland
    The daunting climate and the ultimate paucity of marketable trade goods prevented Greenland from becoming a viable settlement, while Vinland settlements foundered due to hostile Algonquins and remoteness from the Scandinavian homeland. The American fascination with these voyages reveals a sentiment the Icelanders would have appreciated, a yearning for connection with an ancient past. x
  • 23
    Swedes in the Baltic Sea and Russia
    By the 8th century, intrepid Swedes had moved into the Russian forest zones, acquiring slaves to trade with Khazar middlemen that controlled the Volga. These Swedes, or Rus, braved rapids and marauding steppe-peoples, adapting to a foreign land and adopting some indigenous customs and institutions. The market towns they established formed the core areas of future Russian states. x
  • 24
    The Road to Byzantium
    The shift in Swedish trading activity from the Volga in the east to the Dneiper in the west was also a shift away from the Islamic world and towards a Byzantine Christian civilization that greatly impressed the Swedes. The Rus became mercenary allies and trading partners with the emperors in Constantinople and imported imperial institutions into an incipient Russian kingdom, beginning the process of Christianization and political transformation. x
  • 25
    From Varangians into Russians
    Prince Vladimir of Kiev's momentous conversion to Orthodox Christianity in 989 was revolutionary. The Rus adopted literacy and the Slavic language, imported Byzantine builders to create masonry churches, shifted patronage from pagan poetry to Christian works, created cavalry and a military elite, and converted a slave-trade economy into an agricultural economy that would feed the great cities now taking shape. x
  • 26
    Transformation of Scandinavian Society
    From 790–1000, a massive influx of silver led to the minting of Scandinavian coins and resulting monetized markets. Newly wealthy individuals, increasingly women, enjoyed their largess through imported luxury goods and personal ornamentation found in ever-more opulent ship burials. Overseas Viking kingdoms in Russia and England provided the model, and silver provided the means, for Christian Scandinavian kings to form their own territorial states. x
  • 27
    St. Anskar and the First Christian Missions
    In a Viking-Age Scandinavia well served by the traditional gods of war, sailing, and prosperity, the Carolingian missionary St. Anskar had little success convincing the Vikings that Christianity was a powerful religion of victory. But by training Frankish clergy in the Scandinavian tongue, he put in place the institutions that would aid future Christian kings. x
  • 28
    Formation of the Kingdom of Denmark
    Denmark was forged under threat from the Holy Roman Empire to the south. Responding to Henry the Fowler's 934 invasion, the pagan king Gorm the Old raided the southern frontier, securing Jutland. His successor Harold Bluetooth precluded further invasions by Christianizing Denmark, fortifying the Danevirke, and establishing massive military camps. Harold's son Svein inherited a Danish kingdom with European-wide ambitions. x
  • 29
    Cnut the Great
    Cnut the Great (1014–1035), along with his father Svein Forkbeard, reclaimed England for Scandinavia, but viewed himself as a pan-European king in the mold of Charlemagne. Though not remembered fondly by his subjects, his maintenance of a powerful fleet, innovative use of proxy rule, and savvy employment of marriage alliances turned Denmark from a fragile kingdom into a Christian North Sea Empire. x
  • 30
    Collapse of Cnut’s Empire
    At Cnut's death in 1035, his sons clashed for control while also fending off Magnus the Good of Norway. In 1066, with Cnut's sons both dead and his nephew Svein Estrithson holding Denmark, Magnus's uncle Harald Hardardi attempted to wrest England from Cnut's distant relative Harold II. Harold repelled Hardardi but fell at Hastings to William the Conqueror, who had just begun to put Normandy on the map. x
  • 31
    Jarls and Sea Kings of Norway
    Harald Finehair, a king in Upplönd, imposed his rule over Norway after defeating a coalition of jarls at the naval battle of Hafsfjord c. 875. Although his line ended in 970, another sea king, Olaf Tryggvasson, used his Viking fleet, and Christian institutions, to become king of Norway. Olaf fell fighting a Danish rival, Swein Forkbeard, at the naval battle of Svöld, and Norwegians again acknowledged a Danish king. x
  • 32
    St. Olaf of Norway
    Converted in England, Olaf rose from a Viking raider to become a great Christian king of Norway, which he liberated from Danish rule in 1015. His heavy-handed rule led his subjects to expel and then kill him at the Battle of Stikelstad in 1030, but they later repented, and he survives in memory as Scandinavia's first royal saint. x
  • 33
    Kings of the Swedes and Goths
    Sweden, in resources and population, seemed destined for primacy in Scandinavia, but the Yngling kings of Uppsala did not profit from the Viking expansion in the East. In contrast to Norway and Denmark, Sweden lacked powerful sea kings that could forge a territorial state under hereditary Christian monarchs. x
  • 34
    Christianization and Economic Change
    In the 11th century, distinct national churches emerged in the Scandinavian kingdoms. Christianity brought new prosperity and population growth. Cathedrals and monasteries stimulated the rise of market towns. Coulter ploughs, better tools, and the three-field system improved agricultural productivity significantly for the first time since the Iron Age. x
  • 35
    From Vikings to Crusaders
    By 1100, the Viking age had passed. On the eve of the Black Death (1347–1351), all three Scandinavian kingdoms shared similar fiscal and institutional weaknesses. The three kingdoms were united under the treaty of Kalmar, a weak union that dictated the course of Scandinavian history down to the Reformation. x
  • 36
    The Viking Legacy
    The course of Medieval history was fundamentally altered by the Viking Age. The feudal states of Western Europe were born. The kingdoms of England and Scotland arose. Orthodox Kiev, founded by Swedish Rus, gave political organization to the East Slavic peoples. The three Scandinavian kingdoms emerged, as did the Norse settlements in the North Atlantic. The Vikings gave Christian Europe strength, and the era of the Crusades would have been impossible without them. x

Lecture Titles

Clone Content from Your Professor tab

What's Included

What Does Each Format Include?

Video DVD
Instant Video Includes:
  • Download 36 video lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
Video DVD
DVD Includes:
  • 36 lectures on 6 DVDs
  • 288-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

Video DVD
Course Guidebook Details:
  • 288-page course synopsis
  • Photos & illustrations
  • Maps
  • Suggested readings

Enjoy This Course On-the-Go with Our Mobile Apps!*

  • App store App store iPhone + iPad
  • Google Play Google Play Android Devices
  • Kindle Fire Kindle Fire Kindle Fire Tablet + Firephone
*Courses can be streamed from anywhere you have an internet connection. Standard carrier data rates may apply in areas that do not have wifi connections pursuant to your carrier contract.

Your professor

Kenneth W. Harl

About Your Professor

Kenneth W. Harl, Ph.D.
Tulane University
Dr. Kenneth W. Harl is Professor of Classical and Byzantine History at Tulane University in New Orleans, where he teaches courses in Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Crusader history. He earned his B.A. from Trinity College and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Yale University. Recognized as an outstanding lecturer, Professor Harl has received numerous teaching awards at Tulane, including the coveted Sheldon H. Hackney Award. He has...
Learn More About This Professor
Also By This Professor


Vikings is rated 4.5 out of 5 by 210.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding! I am delighted with this program. The presenter is incredibly knowledgeable, and he makes what he's telling us thoroughly interesting and, yes, entertaining. The maps are very helpful, and make video greatly preferable to audio. This is one of the most enjoyable programs of the many I have had from the Great Courses.
Date published: 2017-09-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Lots of Details As usual Harl gives a great presentation. His content is very high and demands close attention to what he says. This course really needs the video version; like his others there are many maps.
Date published: 2017-09-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Best Course by Professor Harl This is my favorite course from Professor Harl. It is the 8th one I've listened to and while I struggled with most of the previous ones and did not take to his teaching style, this is a very solid course. It has good historical narrative on the peoples of Scandinavia (Norway, Denmark, and Sweden) from Apx. 8000 BC to Aprx. 1400 AD focusing on the Vikings age of 790 AD to 1100 AD which centered on their raids and attacks against Europe as well as the formations of the kingdoms of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden: o Attacks on the Frankish kingdom in the 9th century (Danes) o Attacks on the kingdoms of England in the 9th, 10th, and 11th centuries (Danes) o Attacks on the Celtic West (Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Isle of Man) in the 9th, 10th, and 11th centuries (primarily Norwegians) o Settlement of Iceland (9th century by Norwegians) o Settlement of Greenland (10th century by Norwegians) o Discovery of Vinland (Newfoundland) in the early 11th century by Norwegians o The forays of the Russ (from Sweden) into eastern Europe including founding a state in current day Russia and their conflicts and alliances with the Byzantine Empire (9th century) o Unification of Norway (end of the 9th century) o Unification of Denmark (10th century) o Emergence of Sweden (11th century) In the past I'd typically characterized Professor Harl's teaching style as throwing out as many facts as you can in 30 minutes rapid-fire style, hopping all over the map and across various ruling families while doing so. Relating info vs. teaching. There's still a bit of that in this course. It is sometimes hard to follow the various dynastic family members, marriages, relationships, and conflicts due to him covering a lot of ground in a short period of time. However, I did find myself enjoying these lectures much more than past courses. While the professor still makes it "hard work" to listen to his lectures (no multi-tasking or listening in the background or you will get lost very quick or miss key points!) I actually found these to be easier to listen to than previous courses. And that sensation of "can't wait to listen to the next lecture and the one after that" returned. And it wasn't because I just wanted to get through the course. Another somewhat negative: when the professor discusses the fall of one empire and the rise of another (for example Norwegians in Ireland who are essentially toppled by the Irish kings in 980) often times he doesn’t explain why this occurred or the primary reasons for the circumstances changing. Just a statement of fact and then moves on. But all in all I am happy I purchased this course. If you have any interest at all in the early kingdoms of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway and how the Viking warriors of the early Middle Ages impacted the rest of Europe including the formations of states such as France, England, Ireland, and Russia then I definitely recommend this course. it fills a gap in The Great Courses' offerings nicely. Now if we can only get a course on Scandinavia post the Vikings age....
Date published: 2017-09-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Norse My father was from Uppsala, Sweden and my Grandfather on my mother's side was the Police Chief in Bergen, Norway and he married a women from Normandy. It was interesting to see where they came from.
Date published: 2017-08-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful series by an excellent professor My wife and I listen ti the "Vikings" during a trip to Colorado. Now we want to travel to Denmark, Norway and Sweden!
Date published: 2017-07-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very interesting Course discussed histories of people that I had previously known only in the way they fit into the stories of other peoples. it was good to see the breadth of their own history, good and bad.
Date published: 2017-06-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Very Fine Introduction I have been watching this series with my 14-year-old son as part of his history credit. Overall, I find this lecture series very valuable. We have both learned a great deal not only about the Vikings themselves but about their far-reaching impact on the Western world, an impact that was somehow neglected in all my previous history courses (including in university). Simply understanding how broad-ranging the Vikings were makes this course valuable and one I can definitely recommend. In addition, Professor Harl has a good sense of humor and uses word play that makes my son and I laugh. He also tells very interesting anecdotes, both apocryphal and factual, that keep the overall story moving along. He has organized the course very well. Both within and across lectures, Professor Harl makes his objectives clear, and I feel that he definitely accomplishes them. I have only two criticisms: one is that he does not consistently pronounce names and places, nor does the written version on the screen always correspond to what he is saying. For example, the screen shows the name Anskar but Professor Harl pronounces it "Angster." (He also, inexplicably, says, Euro-peen instead of Euro-pe-an.) The second criticism is that Professor Harl sometimes nests so many asides and tangets into his sentences that we lose the thread of what he is saying. We can remedy this by rewinding and listening again, but it can sometimes be frustrating. Those issues aside, both my son and I have learned a lot from and enjoyed these lectures, and I recommend them for someone who wants a broad introduction to the Vikings.
Date published: 2017-05-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating topic! Top notch presentation! Professor Harl does an excellent job presenting subject. I was fascinated with the level of detail he brought about the Vikings, their culture, history, technical achievements, and what it was that drove these people to be such a big part of European history. I would recommend this course to anyone with an interest in this key part of world history!
Date published: 2017-03-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very interesting culture This is our third lecture series by Professor Harl. He lectures are fascinating and so well researched.
Date published: 2017-02-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another historical world opened by Prof. Harl We have all heard of the Vikings, about their raids on various poor Europeans; maybe we think of Iceland, Greenland, and "Vinland". But this course lays out the traditions of Scandinavia which led to the Viking Age, and the effects on Europe and its historical connections. The Vikings conquered or traded with Iceland, Ireland, Scotland, England, Normandy (from "North Men"), Russia, Constantinople, Italy. Just prior to the Normans taking England, King Cnut (King of England, Denmark, and for a while Norway, had forged a strong kingdom. Just a few months prior to the Battle of Hastings, the King of England had defeated the last attempt of Scandinavian conquest of England before marching south to Hastings, to lose to William of Normandy, descendent of Vikings. In addition to plunder, the Vikings were very much involved in trade, with the best cargo ships of the era. Slaves for especially southern Europe, Constantinople, and points east provided a large amount of the wealth which poured into Scandinavia. Prof. Harl does not just read us history: he has obvious studied his topics well, understands detail, then can present a good sweep of the overall historical picture. A "must course" for anyone interested in European history,
Date published: 2017-01-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dr. Harl is talks are fascinating During a recent long illness, instead of flowers my thoughtful, practical daughter sent me Professor Harl's The Vikings. I was able to focus on Professor Hart's enthusiastic, well organized presentation instead of my misery. I love the way the course is divided into separate topics with each lesson. I feel as though I was able to absorb so much of the content and found it so continually interesting my mind didn't drift. I wish all my college professors had been as interesting as Dr. Harl.
Date published: 2016-12-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great overview of Vikings world/significance I rate this excellent,if you enjoy history and the big picture overview of historical significance. The professor gives enough details to demonstrate his extensive knowledge of the Vikings (how he remembers all of the names, I do not know), but mainly is his organization of the story and the important developments and the Vikings' significant impact not medieval world. He is very exciting in his story telling and kept me interested. He is not dry with many seemingly irrelevant facts like many professors. I love the way he tells you the main focus of his lectures at the beginning of his lecture. This is the type of lecture I wanted. High praise.
Date published: 2016-11-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The vikings I wanted to learn about the Vikings. Especially about its effects on the early Europe and their relationship with the Russians and Ukraine. This is a an item of current interest. The course was very detailed. A course, for me, could have been 24 lessons ., I wanted to know somethings but not that much
Date published: 2016-11-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Viking Adventure This course was a wonderful opportunity for me to understand my Scandinavian ancestors, and how they interacted and influenced my British and my German ancestors.The false images given out today about Vikings, from their garb to their ambitions were clearly banished. Dr. Harl is a fascinating teacher, and even though the lectures are more than 10 years old, they felt relevant & current. I would have enjoyed being part of any of his classes.
Date published: 2016-10-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Course! The course is very comprehensive, and well presented. The information presented is factual, and has no detectable spin. The professor is knowledgeable on the topic, and has an engaging voice and personality. I have ordered two more courses with the same professor.
Date published: 2016-08-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from New Knowledge re: The Vikings I knew of the vikings' savage raids in western Europe and the British Isles and of their exploration and colonies in Iceland and further west into Vinland. But this course opened up whole new vistas of the vikings' part in the development of Europe toward the east and then south into the Byzantine empire. This course discussed the viking influences on the evolution of Russia and the spread of Christianity into central and eastern Europe. It offered insight into the heritage and composition of the population of the British Isles. And all of this came from the peoples living in the Scandanavian countries (today's Norway, Sweden and Denmark) who traveled the rivers of Europe. Very interesting.
Date published: 2016-04-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating course A wonderful course. Being an Englishman I knew that 1066 was related to the Viking era. However I hadn't realised just how vital the Vikings were to the development of Europe. I must admit I thought I would struggle to get through this course, however, it was absolutely fascinating. Yet another "Great Course".
Date published: 2016-02-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The scale and range of Viking influence I enjoy prof Harls presentation. The range of Viking influence from Newfoundland through Greenland and Iceland across Scandanavia down through Russia to Byzantium and Bagdhad is amazing. When Icelanders referred to the city they were talking about Constantinople ! Lots of detail re the technology of Viking boats and the leaders.
Date published: 2016-02-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Vikings... more than advertised. This history gives the reader/listener very good lessons in human nature common to, from what I can ascertain, all groups that became a World power. ... including those in the year 2021.
Date published: 2016-01-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Moffett The course was very interesting. At time way too much information was given. He keep jumping from years to centuries. One has to stop and figure what year and miss what he said next. Prof. Kenneth should go to Toastmasters and learn how to speak. Nearly every sentence, he says has at least one "ah" He pauses with a "ah"s. Yes, this goes on and on for 36 lectures. So be prepared. With those distractions, I would definitely recommend this course if you're really interested in what the Vikings really did and it's is amazing what they did for centuries. Prof. Kenneth is very knowledgeable on this subject.
Date published: 2016-01-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Vikings Rock! Excellent course. This is my favorite course to date. Dr. Harl is excellent. My mind never wanders, which is a challenge since I am walking on a treadmill while watching the course. I find it exciting and informative, especially since some of my ancestors go back to the Vikings.
Date published: 2015-12-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from highly recommended Absolutely fascinating course in an area of history I really had very little prior knowledge. Professor Harl presented an overwhelming amount of information and facts, yet it was so well organized and presented it was also very entertaining. Kept my interest from start to finish. One of my favorite courses I've received.
Date published: 2015-12-03
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Interesting but dry I really wanted to like this course more than I did. The content was really interesting and provided some excellent historical context. I just struggled to maintain focus during the lectures. I found the presentation quite dry and not overly engaging. If you already have an interest in this area then perhaps the depth of subject material will enhance your understanding. However, for someone coming to the subject with virtually no prior understanding it's perhaps not the best choice.
Date published: 2015-11-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good Course Kenneth Harl presents a first-rate overview of Viking society. He begins with a long introduction about Scandanavia in ancient times. He shows how this set the background for the Vikings technological advantage over other societies in naval craft . He has several lectures on Viking raids into and warfare against various countries. He presents excellent material on the Viking settlement in Iceland, the government that they set-up there, and on Icelandic epic poetry. There is also a discussion of settlements in Greenland and Vinland. He also shows how Scandanavian monarchs introduced Christianity, and how Christianity supported central monarchy. Overall, this is an excellent course, but it is not as good as Harl's course on the Peloponnesian War, which is a masterpiece.
Date published: 2015-10-10
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Very disappoining - but I digress... This course is an example of what disappoints me about The Great Courses sometimes. I have bought and enjoyed some of the best courses ever from them - and then some of the worst. And this is one of those! The presenter of this course is almost impossible to listen to - in fact i have quit on the course three CDs into an 18 CD course - money down the drain. There is really no apparent script or structure to each of his lectures and the digressions (what we used to call bunny trails) can take you so far afield that you despair of ever getting back to the point. And many of these digressions contain passing references to other cultures or other time periods or specific artifacts with no clarification - because they are not actually the salient point of the lecture anyway. I have had a couple of these experiences now with these courses - offset, as i said, by some outstanding experiences - and i am not sure how many more shots in the dark i am willing to waste money on. You can take it from me - this one is a waste of money. You can have mine for free, if you'd like.
Date published: 2015-09-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Come for the Raiding but Stay for the Big Picture This course exceeded all of my expectations. I took the course expecting to hear the classic stories about Viking raids and plundering plus stories of the great Viking expeditions of discovery to Iceland, Greenland and North America. The professor covered all of that and surprisingly more than I expected. The course spent considerable time focusing on the relationship between the Viking areas and the rest of Europe. The professor explained in great detail how Viking culture and raids profoundly changed European culture. The modern regions of England, Ireland, Russia and Normandy France, and many others, were profoundly crafted by interaction with the Vikings. The professor also explains in great detail how the rest of Europe profoundly changed Viking culture. Specifically, Christianity and the manor-system of agriculture eventually converted the Vikings from the raiding, pillaging stereotypes to typical European-style Christian kingdoms. The professor points out that it was Christian conversion, rather than military force, that ultimately stopped the Viking raids and pacified the culture. Perhaps the best part of this course was the professor's ability to weave the story of the Vikings into the broader story of Medieval European history. After finishing this course, I feel that I gained not just a better understanding of Viking history, but also the history of France, Germany, England, Ireland and Russia. The professor's presentation style was both understandable and humorous. This is a model of what a Great Courses class should be.
Date published: 2015-08-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Review of the Vikings and Their Impact The course remains fresh even after 10 years of its initial launch. Professor Harl is top-notch. I wish I had him as one my teachers in college.
Date published: 2015-07-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating and Surprising I must confess that apart from the notion of Viking raids, I knew very little about Norse influence on early and medieval Western European history, not to mention the the impact on Russia and the Byzantine Empire. This course has been a fascinating voyage of discovery for me with every lecture. Prof. Harl's scholarship and care in presentation makes this journey into new territory quite enjoyable. Terrific stuff!
Date published: 2015-03-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Vikings Dr. Harl knows a lot about his subject and tries to pack too much in the lecture. The amount he wishes to present makes him talk too fast. It is hard to follow his fast speech and absorb the covered material. A firmer structure and more conciseness would add more value to a nice lecture.
Date published: 2015-02-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Lots to Learn Here! I thoroughly enjoyed (and am still enjoying) Professor Harl's course on the Vikings. His pleasantly gruff delivery and wry asides add greatly to the excellent presentation of such a wealth of material. I don't recall learning much about Scandinavian history in school so this course was nearly all new information for me. I highly recommend the DVD version for the maps and other graphics, especially if, like me, you're not well versed in the geography of some of the regions covered. There are a number of Haralds and Olafs and Cnuts to get straight so keep reviewing the lectures and rereading the course guidebook. If you're genuinely interested in the subject matter and are willing to make the effort, you will be richly rewarded. (The dubbed corrections are much appreciated, too.)
Date published: 2015-01-26
  • y_2020, m_7, d_9, h_15
  • bvseo_bulk, prod_bvrr, vn_bulk_3.0.10
  • cp_3, bvpage2n
  • co_hasreviews, tv_12, tr_198
  • loc_en_US, sid_3910, prod, sort_[SortEntry(order=SUBMISSION_TIME, direction=DESCENDING)]
  • clientName_teachco
  • bvseo_sdk, p_sdk, 3.2.0
  • CLOUD, getContent, 66.04ms

Questions & Answers

Customers Who Bought This Course Also Bought

Buy together as a Set
Save Up To $17.00
Choose a Set Format