The best book of the year?

I have to ask this: how often have you bought an academic book and then spent the entire afternoon following that just reading it? I mean not just skimming through it because it’s for an essay due the next day, but really reading it. Not just reading it, but also measuring the validity its arguments and at the same time enjoying every word you read.

Well I have that sort of experience this summer, and I might be bias in the, but the book was GOOD!!!  Why am I bias? Well, the author was my former teacher in Early medieval history at the now University of Nordland, Norway, Alf Ragnar Nielssen.   However, I believe that anyone who read this book will agree with me that it is a book well worth adding to any library throughout the world, and that any scholar who consider themselves serious about the Viking age should at least know what it suggest.

I have always been intrigued by the settling of Iceland, and how a nation came to exist on that island.  Until now have most scholars maintained the conservative view that the migration to Iceland came predominantly from Western Norway, more specifically from what today is the counties of Moere and Romsdal, Sogn og Fjordane, Hordaland and Rogaland. Although this is the dominant opinion, scholars have lately started to re-evaluate the material from the Landnama book, as well as the genetic tests of the Icelandic population. Which suggest that Iceland was not only settled from Western Norway, but also from the British Isles, and other parts of Scandinavia, such as Sweden, Denmark and other parts of Norway.

Yet, none have so far explored the possibility of a North Norwegian migration to Iceland, although there is clear evidence in the Landnama book that there were settlers from this region. Well I should probably correct myself, none had done is except Alf Ragnar Nielssen, which this summer, June 2012, published a book on the topic called: ‘Landnåm fra Nord’ [Migration from the North].

‘Landnåm fra nord’ by Professor Nielssen is what some might call a breath of fresh air, it’s a book that not only explores the current ideas and accepted truths about the migration, and the sources available for exploring these truths. It also critically investigates what the sources themselves are saying, and seeing their evidence within the wider context of the Viking world both in North Sea perspective and the influence of the high North upon the issues it is concerned with. The book is divided in two, one part where it examines the context and the findings of the research in a wider context, as well as looks at each subject individually such as the women of the migration, the possibility of a Sámi element in the migration, the political and economic structures the emigrates left behind, and those they established when they came to Iceland. In the second part of the book does the author present the evidence on which he bases his conclusions, furthermore the author gives not only the references on which he bases his finding, but also the text itself, which makes it easier for the reader to follow. This makes the book not only a great introduction to the North Norwegian Viking age and the migration to Iceland, but also a respectable and  important text for anyone who wish to understand the settling of Iceland and the use of the Icelandic literature as  sources for history.

Unfortunately, this book is not published in English, but in Norwegian. So my advice for all of you out there: learn Norwegian and read the book as it is well worth learning the language just for that book. Or you can wait for Professor Nielssen to publish his findings in English, which I hope he will do soon. But for those of you who read Norwegian, you should definitely go out and buy the book or get your local library to get it, as it’s probably the best academic book that will be published in 2012.


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