A Danish comic book that features Donald Duck as a Viking (2021).

Our understanding of the Viking Age arises as a conversation between questions we ask today and answers the past can give us. But those questions are guided in part by questions previous generations have asked. As the Viking Age evolved into a field of research in the 1800s, many scholars were interested in understanding the origins of Scandinavian nations that they then inhabited, with the result that the Viking Age is still often seen as the time when Scandinavian societies developed into Christian kingdoms that became part of a broader European culture, anticipating the structures of later nation states. Of course, no one who lived during the Viking Age was working to build the strange world in which we live. The were instead interested in making a world of their own. How do researchers navigate this gap?

In the spring of 2023, I recruited twelve Princeton students of diverse backgrounds and interests to help me explore this question. We met under the rubric of a course—HUM 402: Making the Viking Age—and I framed our conversations around two guiding questions: How did people in the Viking Age make their world? and How do we re-make their world today? Through the support of the Princeton University Humanities Council and a Magic Grant for Innovation, we were able to work with the Princeton University Library Special Collections, invite a guest lecturer to discuss excavations in Iceland, travel to Denmark to visit institutions in Roskilde and Copenhagen, and arrange workshops with local artisans in Princeton and surrounding communities.

Our work challenged the limits of how a liberal arts education is traditionally taught and opened opportunities for imagining new visions of the Viking Age. The course progressed through four stages:


Special thanks are due to:

  • Charlie Barber, Department of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University
  • Beatrice Kitzinger, Department of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University
  • Mary Cate Connors, Humanities Council, Princeton University
  • Stephanie Lewandowski, Humanistic Studies, Princeton University
  • Alan Stahl, Curator of Numismatics, Princeton University Library
  • Eric White, Curator of Rare Books, Princeton University Library
  • Davide Zori, Interdisciplinary Core and Department of History, Baylor University
  • Ole Kastholm, Julie Nielsen, and Isabella Fuglø, Roskilde Museum
  • Charlotte Frantzdatter, Sagnlandet (Land of Legends), Lejre
  • Morten Ravn, Jesper Stub Johnsen, Silas Tavs Ravn, Anne C. Sørensen, and Vibeke Bischoff, Viking Ship Museum, Roskilde
  • Anne Pedersen, Peter Pentz, Ulla Mannering, Jan Bruun Jensen, and Anette Hjelm-Petersen, National Museum of Denmark
  • Adam Welch, Piroska Toth, and Erin Armington, Arts Council of Princeton
  • Daniel Lapidow, Blacksmith of Trenton

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