The Hammer and the Cross
A New History of the Vikings
A vivid new interpretation of the Viking age
For those living outside Scandinavia, the Viking Age effectively began in 793 with an attack on the monastery at Lindisfarne. As the Northumbrian cleric and scholar Alcuin put it: 'We and our fathers have now lived in this fair land for nearly three hundred and fifty years, and never before has such an atrocity been seen in Britain as we have now suffered at the hands of a pagan people. Such a voyage was not thought possible. The church of St Cuthbert is spattered with the blood of the priests of God, stripped of all its furnishings, exposed to the plundering of pagans - a place more sacred than any in Britain'. The attack on Lindisfarne was a characteristically violent harbinger of what was in store for Britain and much of Europe from the Vikings for the next 300 years, until the final destruction of the heathen temple to the Norse gods at Uppsala around 1090.
Establishing the history of this largely non-literate people is notoriously tricky. Robert Ferguson is a sure guide across what he calls 'the treacherous marches which divide legend from fact in Viking Age history'. His long familiarity with the literary culture of Scandinavia - the eddas, the poetry of the skalds and the sagas - is combined with the latest archaeological discoveries and the evidence of picture-stones, runes, ships and objects scattered all over northern Europe, to make the most convincing modern portrait of the Viking Age in any language. The Hammer and the Cross ranges from Scandinavia itself to Kievan Rus and Byzantium in the east, to Iceland, Greenland and the north American settlements in the west; the history of Britain is seen thoroughly as part of a European continuum. Beyond its geographical boundaries the book takes us on a journey to a misty region inhabited by Hallfred the Troublesome Poet, Harald Bluetooth, Ragnar Hairy-Breeches, Ivar the Boneless and Eyvind the Plagiarist, in which literature, history and myth dissolve into one another.
Robert Ferguson is a leading authority in the field of Scandinavian studies. After studying in London under Peter Foote, co-author of the classic Viking Achievement, he emigrated to Norway in 1984. At the invitation of the Norwegian Government he has lectured on aspects of Norwegian and Scandinavian history and culture at embassies, universities and other cultural venues in St Petersburg, New Delhi, Mumbai, Oslo, Bergen, Prague, Warsaw, Riga, Edinburgh, Vasa, New York and at the Library of Congress in Washington. His previous books include biographies of Henrik Ibsen and Knut Hamsun, and in 2002 his Viking Age novel Siste kjśrlighet (Last Love), based on the 13th century Saga of Hallfred the Troublesome Poet, was published to critical acclaim in Norway. The Hammer and the Cross was written between 2002 and 2009 in Oslo and on the Isle of Cumbrae.
Pub Date: November, 2009
Format: 234 x 153 mm hb
US rights: Penguin US
Translation Rights: Penguin UK (excl. Norwegian)
Film Rights: Scott Ferris Associates
Serial Rights: Penguin UK