The Viking Heart: How Scandinavians Conquered the World, by Arthur Herman

tylopoda's review

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adventurous informative inspiring medium-paced


historynerd04's review

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There is an abundance of books about Scandinavian history on the market these days, but this one is, by far, the most expansive. Starting back in prehistory and running through time - giving a solid pause in recounting stories of immigrants to the US and Canada in the 1800s and 1900s - this book feels like it should lose its footing in all the ground it covers. Instead, it does the opposite. Much like the Vikings of the Viking age, this ship stays its course but does seem to hit choppy water once it reaches the chapters on WWII and [in]famous Scandinavian descendants of the early 1900s. The author leans in too hard on the sanitization of some 1st generation Scandinavians with checkered pasts, namely Lindbergh and Volstead (yes, of that certain prohibitive act).

Education, and its importance amongst Scandinavians and their descendants in the US, could be argued as a vital part of the Viking heart. I was disappointed to see very few words about the colleges and universities set up by those of Viking descent here in the US alone. Luther College, a few seminaries, and St. Olaf are mentioned in passing but no words dedicated to the other Scandinavian (and Lutheran) established halls of higher learning.

Despite these quibbles, this is a sprawling, fascinating read where little nuggets of info pop up in unusual places (for example, did you know the Thames was once an ancient tributary to the Rhine?) and I found myself highlighting a lot!


Many thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me e a free copy for review.