The Viking Wars: War and Peace in King Alfred’s Britain, 789–955, by Max Adams, Pegasus Books, New York, 2018, $29.95
Due largely to a lack of source material, relatively little has been written about the early Middle Ages (circa 500–1000). Increasingly, however, archaeology has been filling gaps in our knowledge about the period, and those revelations combined with existing written sources now provide adequate material for worthwhile books by competent authors. Max Adams is such an author, and The Viking Wars is such a book, relating the political and military history of the British Isles across the time frame.
Adams divides his book into three broad periods—from the initial Norse invasions and subsequent clashes with the Britons to a transition period when Norse kings coexisted uneasily with their Angle and Saxon counterparts and, finally, to the gradual assimilation of the Norse into British culture. Each section opens on a time line of significant events during the respective period, providing historical context for those less familiar with the Viking era.
Adams does an excellent job of weaving together archaeological findings, firsthand accounts, secular and religious histories, and other available sources from early medieval Britain. He uses some unfamiliar language but almost always defines it in a footnote. And while the book could do with more maps to help readers place the kings and lords in their respective realms, the illustrations provided serve to illuminate the narrative.
On the whole The Viking Wars is an interesting and well-written history of the Norse invasion of the British Isles and their eventual assimilation. It is an engaging read, certainly worth a look for anyone curious about the early history of the region.