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Viking Weapons and Combat Techniques [Hardcover]

William R. Short
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 1 2009
The Vikings are among the historical world's most feared and famous warriors. Their success as a fighting group was due in part to the unique ways in which they wielded their weapons - swords, axes, lances, and shields - combined with small-group tactics that were always part of an overall strategy.This thoroughly researched and superbly illustrated volume examines all the known archaeological and literary evidence of Norse combat, and combines it with the results of real-life martial exercises and training techniques in order to establish the most probable fighting methods employed by the Vikings more than 1,000 years ago.

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About the Author

William Short is a regular guest lecturer at the Higgins Armory Museum, Massachusetts, as well as other museums and cultural institutions around the world.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fresh Look at the Viking Age! Feb. 16 2010
William Short does a fine job of intertwining the knowledge of Viking Age weapons, the context of the Icelandic Sagas and the Viking Culture of the period into a comprehensive look into how the Vikings may have used weaponry. He provides an overview of viking culture, presents the historical sources and then based upon his experiences as a reenactor and researcher (experimental archaeology if you will), goes on to develop the relationship between what may have been possible with Viking age weaponry. He draws on Talhoffer(1467) and Meyer(1570) as a more modern source to illustrate the relationships between the techniques that are well known versus those that are speculated upon from the Viking Age.

The writing style, clearly is scientific in its approach, but is in plain language and provides for some great quotes and anecdotes from the Sagas to make it entertaining. Its well illustrated, referenced and nicely organized so that information is easily found.

I highly recommend it as one of those books you should have in your collection as a guide and reference source for the reenactor or historian alike.

Warren Cummins B. Ed.,
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enthusiastic work! July 17 2010
For the dedicated Viking enthusiast, this is a priceless exploration of weaponry and combat technique. It relies a little heavily on re-enactment, and could include a little more archeological data, but the work as a whole is fantastic.
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Amazon.com: 3.6 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gem May 30 2009
By Dawn Huebner - Published on Amazon.com
Well researched and immanently readable, Viking Weapons and Combat Techniques is an excellent contribution to the literature. A conversational tone and ample use of illustrations/photos keep the content accessible to novices while moving those with more than a passing interest to the next level of understanding. William Short's background as a research scientist comes through in his ability to synthesize information from multiple and disparate sources into a coherent story of a fascinating (and often misunderstood) people.
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent speculation on how Vikings might have used weapons Dec 24 2009
By Resa Nelson - Published on Amazon.com
Viking Weapons and Combat Techniques is an excellent and innovative book written by a scientist who understandably approaches the subject with a scientific point of view. While the book is academic in nature, it's also very easy to read and digest. Short gives a good overview of Viking culture and the weapons they used. He then speculates how those weapons were used based on information drawn from a variety of resources, including the author's years of experience in Western Martial Arts and hands-on research with reproductions of Viking weapons. In fact, the author dedicates an entire chapter to describing his resources, which include archaeological finds, medieval and Renaissance combat documents, Icelandic sagas, art, and forensics. In other words, these are the puzzle pieces, and Viking Weapons and Combat Techniques is the picture the author created using those puzzle pieces. He also explains the limitations of his research on Viking combat techniques. The book is peppered with specific examples, illustrations, and photos that support his findings. For example, when Short mentions a specific passage from a saga, he clearly explains why he's using it as an example and how that passage ties into the subject matter at hand. One of Short's strengths is the level of detail he presents about Viking culture and how each detail gives insight to how, where, and why Vikings fought. This book is a treasure for a wide audience, from novices who want to learn about Vikings to expert practitioners of Western Martial Arts.
9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent! Jan. 8 2010
By J. L. Pringle - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This wonderful book fills the gap that has existed since the publication of Oakeshott's "The Archaeology of Weapons" and Davidson's "The Sword in Anglo-Saxon England."
Synergistically combining the physical and literary evidence of the past with modern reconstruction and interpretation, the text brings the sagas to life while giving us a deeper understanding of how the Viking thought about and may have used the weapons of the day. The profuse & diverse illustrations bring out many subtle details of the artifacts that are typically not found outside of obscure archaeological reports and add a deeper context to the mix. A welcome addition to the Viking literature.
3.0 out of 5 stars What he said... May 4 2014
By The Reviewer - Published on Amazon.com
I'll begin by saying anyone interested in this book should first read Scott Rodell's review of May, 19, 2010.

Dr. Shorts appropriation of the terms from a later era is annoying, especially the "short edge" and "long edge" designations . Short goes so far as to state that on a double-edged sword each edge is "nominally identical" in a lame effort to support the use of "short edge" and "long edge". For all intents and purposes they ARE identical. Besides, "short edge" attacks with a single-handed weapon is a good way to disarm oneself. Besides,Viking swords were designed primarily as hacking weapons. It seems more logical to suppose that when the sword was nicked and notched and hanging up, it was flipped over in the hand to have a nice new edge available! This was not necessarily the case but illustrates that conjecture is just conjecture. A whole book based on conjecture is next to worthless.

I would add that a book about Viking weapons seems incomplete when there is no discussion of the many, generally Norwegian, single-edged swords discovered.

There is a lot of good historical information in the book, but the validity of the conjectural fighting technique sections are questionable on a number of levels.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Fierce Viking Warriors Feb. 14 2012
By S. Cranow - Published on Amazon.com
Vikings as they were called were considered among the most fierce of seaborne raiders, known for their ferocity, plundering and taking captives. This group of Scandiavians, Germans etc occupied most of Northern Europe, Scandinavian Lands and the North Atlantic. In reality they were not called Vikings as Viking was more of a raid or an action. The people we call Vikings or raiders were not any more savage then raiders of that time. The so called Vikings got a bad rep because they were Pagan and held frast to the old ways.

Most of these Teutonic people were in fact farmers. There were also trade men among them. They saw the raid as a way of getting rich and acquiring more goods. They did not do it to conquer land or for any love of fighting. Their life was very militaristic an they were always armed in case of attack which could happen at any moment.

The book does a thorough job of analyzing the weapons available to the Vikings. Weapons construction is method along with some potential uses for the weapon and application on the battlefield. The Viking age ended in 1066 ad when most of them converted to Christianity and other Europeans were able to build strong armies to defend themselves. The Vikings did not leave behind any written example of their fighting techniques so historians are doing their best to piece it together. Any fighting techniques that have been culled were derived from medieval fighting manuals and Viking Legends from Iceland. The fighting manuals wee meant to serve as memory aids to those already trained which made piecing the techniques together all the more difficult. It is speculative at best. The last part of the book gives demonstrations of some fighting techniques that are filled out with instruction and plenty of photos. But do not try these at home.

Viking weapon and war paraphernalia included helmets, axes, swords, shields, saxes (short swords) spears, bow and arrow and chain mail. Archery was used occasionally in war but as Viking men were buried with their weapon only two graves has arrow head. It is believed that archery was used primarily for hunting. Almost every Viking man had an axe. Any one could get an axe. Axes could be used for wood cutting or combat. Axes served well as long range weapons and hooks that could cut and grapple. Chain mail was extremely expensive so not too many Vikings had it. Large bars of iron were shaved town to spaghetti strands and then made into rings. This took the work of an excellent craftsman. Swords were most valuable and were made by twisting 3 iron bars together and then smelting and hammering them. The tips and cutting edge but be over layered with steal. Swords could literally last for generations. The scabbards had an inner lining of wool which was overlade with wood and maybe another layer of wool topped of by wood or metal outer lining. A sword with out a scabbard was considered useless and dangerous without a sword.

If medieval weapons and Viking History is your things then this is a book you would want to check out.
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