Book Review
Viking Weapons and Combat Techniques
William R. Short
Westholme Publishing, 2009

Viking Weapons and Combat Techniques starts with a consideration of the nature of Viking society with particular emphasis on the role of arms and armour within that culture and a discussion of what resources presently survive to allow interpretation and reconstruction of combat techniques. Chapters on Viking Age personal defenses (shields, helmets, mail, etc.) and the full range of weapons (battle axes, spears, saxes, swords, bows, etc.) are supported with period and later manuscript illustrations, photographs of antique and reproduction Viking style arms and armour and location photographs of places referenced in the sagas. The author has long held a deep interest in the Icelandic sagas and the fruits of his long study of these near contemporary accounts is well shared to embroider and enhance the description and discussion of the various armour and weapon types.

A long chapter is provided on Viking Age sword and shield combat techniques and considers descriptions in the sagas, possible survivals of Viking Age technique enduring in later combat manuals and what can be forensically determined today by martial artists with accurate reproductions in hand.

Initial qualms of "yet another re-enactor rehash" were quickly quashed early into reading this book. I find it easy to recommend this lucently written new work upon the virtues of the firm grasp it imparts to its reader about what is known about the role of arms and armour in Viking society as well its considerations of what remains unknown, its wide coverage of the diverse material components of warfare in use at the time and its credible interpretation and enthusiastic, yet restrained, speculation towards how these material artifacts may have been employed.

Lee A. Jones


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