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In December 2015, the Swedish Research Council made an unprecedented investment in early medieval scholarship, funding a major programme of research at the University of Uppsala to establish a new centre of excellence for the study of the Viking Age. The award appoints Neil Price to a Distinguished Professorship (Rådsprofessor) in pure research for a period of ten years. In addition to the position, the award brings with it a supporting budget of fifty million kronor (approx. $6 million USD).
The Viking Phenomenon
The Viking Age, spanning from around 750 to 1050 CE, holds significant cultural importance in the Nordic countries, particularly Sweden. However, the history of the Vikings has been reshaped and manipulated over time to suit various generations’ needs. Recent research has largely focused on the state formation and Christian conversion processes that led to the formation of modern Scandinavian nations. Little attention has been given to understanding the origins of Viking raiders, their motivations, the societies they emerged from, and why they expanded aggressively during this period.

This ten-year research program, directed by a core group at Uppsala University and the Swedish History Museum in collaboration with Estonian universities, aims to explore these questions, primarily focusing on the early Viking Age from 750 to 850 CE. The project centers around the Valsgärde ship burial site in Uppland, Sweden, which has not been fully researched and published despite its historical significance. Additionally, the project investigates a new find, the Salme ship burials on the Estonian seashore, offering insights into the early Viking era.

The research delves into “Viking economics,” the networks that drove early raiders and sustained their activities. It also examines the multicultural aspects of Scandinavian identity, the roles of women and men in Viking culture, slavery, pirate communities outside Scandinavia, and the Vikings’ non-Christian beliefs in their interactions with the wider world. The project emphasizes international, cross-cultural comparative studies.

The Vikings remain a prominent symbol of Scandinavian heritage today, and this research program seeks to explore this enduring legacy through public engagement. It will involve workshops, conferences, lectures, publications, public outreach initiatives, and online resources to disseminate its findings widely.

image: Uppsala Universitet