He masterfully links the indomitable spirit, and history, of the Vikings, and their Scandinavian ancestors, which made them venture across the Atlantic Ocean both in the early medieval period and the second half of the 19th century CE.

That indomitable (Scandinavian) spirit

What do Erik the Red, Charles Lindbergh, Roger of Sicily, and Gustavus Adolphus all have in common? In the words of Arthur Herman, they all possess the Viking heart, that indomitable spirit that has seen Scandinavians, since at least the early medieval world, conquer (both literally and figuratively) the world.

What separates Herman's book - The Viking Heart - How Scandinavians Conquered the World - from other more staid tomes is the dichotomy between the weighty, heavily researched account of the rise and fall of the "Vikings, from the late Nordic Iron Age (c. 500 BCE to 500 CE) to the death of the Swedish king (and perhaps the heir to the Viking chieftains that plagued Europe centuries before) a millennium later in 1632 CE. 

Whilst other "Viking Age" (c. 793 – 1066 CE) histories normally end in 1066 CE - either with the death of Harald Hardrada at Stamford Bridge or with the invasion and conquest of Anglo-Saxon England led by William, Duke of Normandy, Herman takes us through right up until the early modern period and shows how the Vikings influenced the creation of the medieval kingdoms of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.

The second half of the book jumps forward to the 19th century CE, long after the last longship was ever sailed. 

Here, Herman regales us with that second great "Viking expansion" - the mass immigration of Norwegians, due to dire poverty, to that great promised land, the United States of America. 

Herman's own forebears came Stateside during this period of mass immigration, and this familial history helps humanize what often can be a staid and stuffy subject.

A familial history underscores how Scandinavians built America

The history of Scandinavian immigration to the States, however, is not just one of medieval Vikings or poor 19th-century farmers. 

Herman shows how the "Viking heart" was alive in the Scandinavians who helped, literally, build America and shape its future throughout the 19th and 20th centuries whilst, at the same time, dashing back across the Atlantic to see how the countries those immigrants left behind, the Viking homeland, fared in the same period.

The Viking Heart shows the peaks and troughs, the ups and downs, that societies, and the people, in Scandinavia have gone through since the early medieval period. 

Whilst the modern countries of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway are rich and socially progressive, Herman reminds us that they were a societal backwater between the 12 and 16th centuries. 

One minute you're Cnut the Great, the king of England, Norway, and Denmark, and the only Viking to forge an Empire, the next minute you live in a region where "poverty and underdevelopment...became the norm...from Telemark to Gotland and Jutland..." 

Blink again, and these countries have bequeathed the world the "Nordic model," progressive politics, a welfare state, seemingly gender and income equality with a huge dollop of economic environmentalism.

Yet what links all these societies and people, regardless of the time or place they are in, be it Anglo-Saxon England, 16th-century Denmark-Norway, or early 20th-century New York City, is that they are the ancestors of the Vikings and have all inherited that indomitable spirit which, if we believe Herman, has helped them conquered the world two times. 

The second time, however, was slightly less bloody and slightly more useful to humanity.

The Viking Heart: How Scandinavians Conquered the World by Arthur Herman is available to purchase on Amazon here.

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