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Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide.

Print Price: $31.95

272 pp.
135 mm x 216 mm


Publication date:
April 2021

Imprint: OUP UK

Norse America

The Story of a Founding Myth

Gordon Campbell

The story of the Vikings in North America as both fact and fiction, from the westward expansion of the Norse across the North Atlantic in the tenth and eleventh centuries to the myths and fabrications about their presence there that have developed in recent centuries.

Tracking the saga of the Norse across the North Atlantic to America, Norse America sets the record straight about the idea that the Vikings 'discovered' America. The journey described is a continuum, with evidence-based history and archaeology at one end, and fake history and outright fraud at the other. In between there lies a huge expanse of uncertainty: sagas that may contain shards of truth, characters that may be partly historical, real archaeology that may be interpreted through the fictions of saga, and fragmentary evidence open to responsible and irresponsible interpretation.

Norse America is a book that tells two stories. The first is the westward expansion of the Norse across the North Atlantic in the tenth and eleventh centuries, ending (but not culminating) in a fleeting and ill-documented presence on the shores of the North American mainland. The second is the appropriation and enhancement of the westward narrative by Canadians and Americans who want America to have had white North European origins, who therefore want the Vikings to have 'discovered' America, and who in the advancement of that thesis have been willing to twist and manufacture evidence in support of claims grounded in an ideology of racial superiority.

Readership : All those interested in the history of the Vikings and their 'discovery' and settlement of America, the world of the Dark Ages, and the history of exploration.

1. Discovering America
2. Sagas and Chronicles
3. Maps
4. Iceland and the Discovery of Greenland
5. Norse Greenland
6. L'Anse aux Meadows
7. The Limits of the Norse Presence in North America
8. American Runestones
9. The Kensington Runestone
10. Understanding Norse America
Further Reading

There are no Instructor/Student Resources available at this time.

Gordon Campbell is Fellow in Renaissance Studies at the University of Leicester, and is a Fellow of the British Academy. In January 2012 he was presented with the Longman History Today Trustees Award (for lifetime contribution to history). He has authored and edited many books for OUP including The Oxford Dictionary of the Renaissance (2003); Renaissance Art and Architecture (2004); John Milton: Life, Work and Thought (2008; co-author); Bible: the Story of the King James Version, 1611-2011(2010); and The Hermit in the Garden: from Imperial Rome to Ornamental Gnome (2013). He most recently edited The Oxford Illustrated History of the Renaissance for OUP.

Beyond the Northlands - Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough
The Vikings - Julian D. Richards
A History of the Vikings - Gwyn Jones

Special Features

  • Presents the most recent analysis of the archaeological and documentary evidence of a Norse presence in North America
  • Reading of the saga literature as founding myth rather than documentary evidence
  • Provides an analysis of fake archaeology and its significance
  • Taps into national debates about origins and legitimacy, and into the romance of the Vikings