Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur

Review: The Vikings (Teaching Company)

Just got through my latest course from The Teaching Company, The Vikings. Some thoughts...

Overall, a good course, although not a perfect one. Professor Harl is serious and enthusiastic about his subject, but sometimes just a tad monotonous in his style. My main disappointment is that the course is taught as fairly conventional history, without the sort of more personal-level storytelling that often makes history come more alive. That's especially noticeable in this course, since Stories are so important to the culture.

That said, it's a good, expansive examination of the topic. It's 36 lectures long, so he covers the subject thoroughly, spending several preliminary lectures covering Scandanavia from the Bronze Age through the Age of Migrations, and finishes up with a couple of lectures examining the 12-14th centuries, as it mutates into relatively ordinary medieval Christian kingdoms.

But in the middle, it's mostly focused on the 9th - 11th centuries, and goes quite deeply into them. It cuts topically, rather than as linear history. First, it discusses culture: religion, poetry, heroic legend, shipbuilding, etc.

Then it discusses the meat of the subject: all the places the Vikings invaded, and the impact they had there. This is mostly in pairs, so you get "Viking Raids on the Carolingian Empire" followed by "The Duchy of Normandy"; "Viking Assult on England" followed by "The Danelaw"; "Viking Assult on Ireland" followed by "Norse Kings of Dublin"; "The Road to Byzantium" followed by "From Varangians into "Russians"; and "The Settlement of Iceland" followed by a bunch of lectures on the evolution of that country. The main point of the course is that the Vikings weren't simply a barbaric side-note to the Middle Ages, as they are often portrayed -- rather, they were one of the primary driving forces behind medieval history, and it would have been quite different without them.

The last third of the course is about Scandanavia itself, and its evolution. This mostly goes kingdom by kingdom, going into some depth on each of Denmark, Norway and Sweden (plus a couple of lectures on Cnut's empire and its aftermath), so it can be just a tad hard to follow -- since the histories overlap greatly, it is constantly going back and re-covering the same time periods from different viewpoints.

Like I said, it's pretty good: not the best Teaching Company course, but deep and certainly on a topic interesting to many SCAdians.

I should also note that Teaching Company is getting even more aggressive than usual about their sales -- presumably the recession has hit them hard. For those who don't know the company, you should *never* buy courses from TeachCo at full price, because every course goes on deep sale at least once a year. This particular course is currently on sale, as are dozens of others. Besides their usual month-long sales, they are also doing a lot of short-time spot sales of just a week or so, which they are advertising on their mailing list...
Tags: reviews

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