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Review of John, Eric. "War and Society in the Tenth Century: The Maldon Campaign." Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 5th Ser. 27 (1977): 173-195.

In this article Eric John seeks to place the Battle of Maldon, between the Vikings and Anglo-Saxons, into a greater social context. How did the Viking raids on the Anglo-Saxons effect their society over time. To answer this question John first discusses the social setting in which the battle took place. The identity of these Vikings and locations for their raids on the various Anglo Saxon kingdoms were stated including the paying of the danegeld/tribute to stop attacks (174). The turbulent political scene of the period did nothing to aid Anglo-Saxon forces. The importance of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and Viking sagas as sources of information is introduced next to complete the background. The consequences of the Anglo-Saxon's failure to gain political stability in a timely manner, learn from prior Viking raids and prepare for their possible return is related primarily through the writing of Archbishop Wulfstan's Sermon.

The article is concerned with Anglo-Saxon England during the tenth century as the title states. There are also references to Scandinavia where the Vikings originated. The main point of the article is to discuss the social change the Vikings caused in the already politically unsettled Anglo Saxon England as a result of their raiding activity.

The author makes use of the famed Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for primary source material on the raids. He is also quick to note that these accounts while valuable provide biased information. Also there is the Jomsvikinga Saga which was used as a source for the various changes occurring in Viking society in Scandinavia in regards to raiding strategies. The Sermon of Archbishop Wulfstan and the Oswaldslow Letter are also included as primary sources for the English (179).

The author used an excellent methodology in this article. Every point was validated by a primary source of some kind (mainly those listed above) while still keeping in mind the accuracy of these sources. John evaluates each source for information on the social climate of the time and weaves them together to get some sort of coherent picture. He does however, admit that much information is still missing and more research needs to be done before the matter is resolved.

The results of this article show that the Vikings had a profound effect on the Anglo-Saxons. With an unstable political system the Vikings were extremely successful in their raiding activities (191). Eventually, the Anglo-Saxons under King Ethelred started to fortify themselves against Viking raiding parties with the help of allies in Normandy (190). The Vikings in response, created war bands composed of men whose sole occupation was that of a warrior/raider again making them superior to their Anglo-Saxon opponents. However, the Anglo Saxons according to John up until the Battle of Maldon, thought they had sufficient forces to overcome the Vikings but with the death of a key figure on the side of the English, the Vikings won (190). Spirits low, tributes were organized to minimize the raiding. The defeat at the Battle of Maldon was a major turning point for the English people, forcing them to realize that Viking interference needed to be tolerated, and they needed to adapt accordingly.

The findings of this article prove that the Vikings were superior by utilizing a standing 'army' for lack of a better word while other kingdoms had only the kings personal guard and peasants for defence in times of war. This gave them a distinct advantage over their opponents. The Vikings were the clear victors (183). This aids my research by proving the Vikings had a superior technique in comparison to the people they raided. They were also willing to adapt to enable themselves to be triumphant. This accompanied by their in and out raiding approach, made them difficult to defeat.

      Updated: 4 Dec, 2007
Text © Christena Hurley, 2007
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