PREFACE

THE vikings are still awaiting their English historian. I do not mean that there is no full account of their doings in Great Britain, for of course there are many excellent books by Englishmen dealing with this special aspect of viking history, and among them are the well-known works of Palgrave, Freeman, Oman, and Hodgkin; I mean that there is no substantial book in English exclusively devoted to the vikings and setting forth the whole of their activities not only in the west and the far north, but in the east and south-east as well; for Paul du Chaillu's1 long and discursive book The Viking Age can hardly rank as serious history, interesting and informative though it is, and I am confident that Professor Allen Mawer would want his admirable little work The Vikings to be regarded only as a brief and introductory sketch. I know, needless to say, that there is one important English book concerned with our subject in its larger aspect and that is The Vikings in Western Christendom, by Charles Francis Keary, a fine work of real beauty and a masterpiece of expositional style which I take a special pleasure in praising since Keary was once, as I am now, a member of the staff of the British Museum2; this classic work was published as long ago as 1891, but by common consent it is still, and will long remain, the most valuable study of viking history in our tongue; nevertheless, as the title explains, its scope embraces western Europe only, and therefore I repeat that the northern peoples have not yet found an English historian to record within the compass of a single book the full story of their achievements in the Viking Period.

For my part, I must explain that I have not set myself the task of writing the English history of the vikings that I should like to read, for it should be a great and gallant book, not over

____________________
1
Du Chaillu, a French Canadian, is best known as the African explorer who rediscovered the gorilla; he was born in 1835 and died in 1903.
2
Keary, who was novelist, poet, and philosopher, besides historian and numismatist, was on the staff of the Medal Room from 1872 until 1887 and also assisted the Museum for a short time during the War.

-v-

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