The Viking Heart: How Scandinavians Conquered the World

Houghton Harcourt. Aug. 2021. 512p. ISBN 9781328595904. $30. HIST
In this latest work, award-winning historian Herman (1917: Lenin, Wilson, and the Birth of the New World Disorder) offers both an overview of Viking history and a microcosmic account of some Scandinavian descendants of Vikings, and their contributions to American life. Herman emphasizes that much Viking popular history is actually rooted in myth, and he demonstrates how modern scholarship has corrected those misconceptions. Throughout, Herman returns to traits of what he calls the “Viking heart,” which he defines as the core of the culture that has evolved and been passed down generations and across continents. He starts with what we know of Viking chieftains, then discusses their explorer progeny and numerous stories of innovation and triumph. The entire book is interesting and thoroughly researched, but most readers (perhaps especially those of Scandinavian descent) will be particularly interested once Herman’s narrative reaches U.S. soil, where familiar historical figures and events begin to factor in.
VERDICT As in Herman’s previous books, his writing is engaging and accessible and will engage fans of popular history. It doesn’t aim to be an in-depth, exhaustive history, but rather offers some highlights and bite-sized narratives that make it an excellent armchair read.
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