Cross and Scepter

The Rise of the Scandinavian Kingdoms from the Vikings to the Reformation

Sverre Bagge

Cross and scepter is on the creation of states in Norway, Denmark and Sweden but with a relatively comprehensive approaches, which makes it more of a general history of old Scandinavia.

Starting from the Viking age, Bagge narrates the origination of these kingdoms in “a progression of battles between individual warriors from the ninth to the mid-eleventh century”. He stressed on raiding explorations and alien strategy all the more extensively and makes distinctive comparisons between Bohemia, Poland and Hungary, which originated within the same era.

The introduction of Christianity further solidified the intimacy between these kingdoms. Bagge investigates arguments over the roles played by kings and missionaries and explains advancement of the ecclesiastical law, the noble legislative powers, church establishments and a court system. The introduction of new pieces of machinery in the military, which included massive cavalry and castles were very vital in bringing a movement to a more expertise, elite armed force and the transformation of the leading service obligation into a taxi.

Swinging to social and monetary history, Bagge takes a view at social structure, regal and religious incomes, and the development of towns and trading. He portrays the advancement of administrations and courts, and the power division between aristocracy, monarchy and the church. Ecclesiastical and secular aristocracy controlled the greater part of the incomes of the three nations, [but] the ruler could abuse the opposition between them to accomplish more noteworthy power than the moderate assets under his immediate control would show”. He likewise explores the early improvement of what could be referred to as nationalism.

A chapter on culture explores courtly culture, political theory, and connections to European learning which can be followed by the movement of people and also in the writings. It is rather difficult to figure out the depth or power of famous religion; more of its first class components are represented by the life of Holy person Birgitta of Vadstena. Also, Snorri Stuluson and the Old Norse Heimskringla compared with Saxo Grammaticus and the Latin Gesta Danorum.

A final chapter on the medieval times goes back to politics, giving a detailed summary of the happenings paving the way to the 1397 Kalmar Union, the battles it brought, and its consequent disintegration. The primary concern here is the relationship between aristocracy and monarchy and the roles played by top councils in these three countries.

The writings explores some debates (e.g. In Lonnroth’s contention for class and exchange as drivers of the 1434 Swedish defiance), discusses some origins (the King’s Mirror, Icelandic adventures, etc.) and further explores archaeology (Trelleborg strengthened camp). An extensive survey is further given in modern Scandinavian history texts and views on ancient times (Marxists, nationalist, etc.) and the restrictions of the old source materials. There are no footnotes, but a handy 12-page reference description analyzed chapter by chapter

With simple language and it not focused on scholars alone, Cross and Scepter is open to a broad audience. This will be handy to experts who needs a provincial point of view and yet offer an amazing general outline for anybody inquisitive about ancient Scandinavia after the Viking age.

The Bretons

Michael Jones + Patrick Galliou

The history of Brittany [1490], Bretons offer a good mix of political narrative, archaeology, and economic and social history.

The first 3 chapters describes the archaeological record — Mesolithic and Paleolithic and finds, standing stones, Neolithic graves, socketed axes, Bronze Age tumuli,Trade, Burials, Iron Age crafts, settlement patterns, dwellings, politics, discuss religion, and various outside contacts. There are 2 chapters on Roman Armorica, the first is covering economic, social foundations, while the second is about putting the region in its broader political context.

7 chapters follow the history down to 1490: named the “Dark Age” migrations of Britons, they are largely from Devon and Cornwall, and their relationship with the Franks; Viking raids brought an end to the integration of Brittany in Carolingian empire as an independent kingdom; the development of feudal institutions, the duchy of Brittany revival and the rise of local lordships; relationships with Normandy and Anjou and an incorporation into the great Angevin empire; thus increasing their prosperity under the great Pierre Mauclerc and his successors; the civil war that lasted from 1341 to 1365, with the English and French interventions which followed the disputed Breton succession; and also the development of various state institutions under Montfort dukes, to the end of the independence together with the marriage of 1491 between the beautiful Anne of Brittany to Louis and also an act of unionism in 1532. The last chapter outlines briefly Breton’s history down to the present.

Asides covering military and political events, these chapters also include solid treatment of economic and social history — and the penultimate chapters are devoted to the portrait of Breton society found at the end of the medieval period. There are some discussions of historiography and sources: the linguistic evidence in the cartulary of Redon, the migration from Britain, the “matter of Brittany”, and the development of Breton’s history under the auspices of Montfort dukes. (The termination at 1491 and The choice of geographical region necessarily gives The Bretons a focus on “Bretons identity”, but there is nothing parochial about its own approach.)

The Bretons include a number of halftones, pottery, manuscripts coins, buildings, a few plans and genealogies. There are nearly about 20 maps with the illustrated features like “distribution of place-name suffix -ac”,  “distribution of the Bronze Age tumuli”, the “distribution of Bretons ‘greasy’ ware”, and mendicant and “monastic houses c. 1300”. There are no maps, however, the reader is believed to know the broad geography of Brittany, its principal towns and rivers.

The reader is also expected to have a general background in the ancient and medieval history of Western Europe: The Bretons are a scholarly history and not a popular work that was written for tourists. However, It is clearly written and also well presented, because it never gets bogged down in narrow details: it should work well for anyone who after something substantial.