Were there any differences between Vikings and Anglo-Saxons? - A Mini-Guide with Dominic Sandbrook
Updated: Jun 20
Recently we ascended the mountain of knowledge to consult with the oracle of history that is Dominic Sandbrook. We wanted to ask this veritable literary legend all of the Viking-related questions that our workshop participants and readers asked, nay demanded, an answer to.
Over the next few days, we’ll be revealing what we learned about the Vikings from Dominic in a series of mini-history guides on the run-up to the release of his latest history book for children, teenagers, and grown-ups, Adventures in Time: Fury of the Vikings.
The question we posed Dominic:
Were there any differences between a Viking and an Anglo-Saxon?
What we learned:
“Often when you read about the Vikings and the Anglo-Saxons, it’s quite hard to tell them apart, isn’t it?” You betcha Dominic, I responded – in my mind. Both of them just look the same really. Beards? Check. Woollen tunics? Check. A predilection for bloodletting? Check. What’s the difference, ay?
Despite having thought all that in my head, it was as if Dominic somehow heard me, as he responded, “I would say there are two things. One, the Anglo-Saxons lived in a country that was frankly richer. In a way, you could say they were the people that the Vikings wanted to be. They had things the Vikings wanted.”
Okay, I’m intrigued what’s number two (don’t worry dear reader, I did not giggle upon asking that question and so did not embarrass myself in front of Dominic)? “If you’d asked Alfred the Great, he would have said there was one massive difference, the Anglo-Saxons are Christians, and the Vikings are heathens. So, although the Vikings and the Anglo-Saxons can trace their culture back to a similar starting point – they are both Germanic peoples – the Anglo-Saxons are now Christians, and they think this is the most important thing about them. The Vikings were not, they believed in Odin, Thor, and so on. And the Vikings stopped being Vikings when they became Christians. And that’s when both the Vikings and the Anglo-Saxons stopped being so different.”
Time for a beautiful analogy people: “In a way”, said Dominic, ignoring my weird outburst, “they are like two streams, which flow from the same place, part, and then come back together again.”
Join us next time when we reveal who Dominic Sandbrooks’ three favourite Vikings are. Who are they? Be sure to check back next Thursday to find out.
In Adventures of Time: Fury of the Vikings, prepare to meet the most terrifying raiders the world has ever known, as historian Dominic Sandbrook plunges us back into the thrilling drama of the Viking Age.
We'll encounter gods and giants, axemen and shield-maidens, from the warlords rampaging through King Alfred's England to the sea-captains who first glimpsed the mountains of Iceland. For even in the most glittering cities on earth, no one is safe from the Northmen's fury.