The Viking World
History 301
Dr. Christian Raffensperger
Fall 2007
Wittenberg University

The Viking World

The age of the Vikings was a brief, but dramatic period in the western and Eurasian world. For over two hundred years the Vikings travelled far and wide spreading their culture and taking from other cultures. The Viking's influence was felt in many areas of culture from literature to art to language.

Primary sources versus secondary sources

What is the difference between a primary source and a secondary source? A primary source is typically one written or recorded by a participant in the event, while a secondary source is compiled by an author from primary or secondary sources. An example of a primary source in Viking history is a document written during that period. This may be a document such as a letter or an accounting of an event. A secondary source would be a book written by a historian about the history of Vikings.

Manuscripts and letters are primary sources as they were written by the person observing the event. Books may be comprised of primary sources such as copies of letters or documents relating to an event. Reports of events during the Viking era as reported by eye-witnesses would be primary sources, even though they may be printed in books. Newspaper and magazine articles may be considered primary sources, if they are eye-witness accounts of an event. If not, then you may need to consider them a secondary source.

Finding Books

EZRA– Wittenberg’s library catalog

OhioLINK – Ohio academic libraries catalog

WorldCat – used for materials not found in the above catalogs

Subject Headings: Library of Congress Subject Headings

  • controlled language to allow for more uniform retrieval of information
  • some examples of LC Subject Headings for this subject
    • Civilization, Viking
    • Viking antiquities
    • Vikings
    • Vikings in art
    • Vikings in literature
    • Vikings--North America
    • Vikings--Social life and customs
    • Vikings--Sweden--Gotland--Jewelry

Selected Reference Books

Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism
REF PN681.5 .C57

Collins Encyclopaedia of Scotland
REF DA772 .C618 2000

The Dictionary of Art
REF N31 .D5 1996

Dictionary of Gods and Goddesses
REF BL473 .J67 2004

Dictionary of the Middle Ages
REF D114 .D5 1989

Encyclopedia of World Art
REF N31 .E53

Medieval England: An Encyclopedia
REF DA129 .M43 1998

The Penguin Atlas of British and Irish History
REF G1812.21 .S1 P46 2002

Other Print Resources (a selective list)

The Baltic: A New History of the Region and Its Peoples
Main D965 .P35 2006

Historical Atlas of the Vikings
Main Oversize DL65 .K67 2002

A History of Norwegian Literature
Main PT8363 .H57 1993

Viking Age Sculpture in Northern England
Main NB463 .B34

Reserve Materials

Many of the books on the Vikings have been placed on reserve in Thomas Library by Professor Raffensperger and can be found at the Circulation Desk. You can find these by searching for Reserves on EZRA. You can search for them by professor or by course. These books may only be checked out for a 24 hour period (1 day) and then must be returned or renewed. If you keep them out past the time they are due, you will begin accruing reserve material fines of $1.00 per day until they are returned.

Theses & Dissertations

In the course of your research you may encounter items described as "thesis" or "dissertation". These are the culmination of a masters or doctoral student's research. A thesis is written by a student completing a master's degree in a subject, while a dissertation is written by a student completing their doctoral studies. Many times a doctoral dissertation will ultimately be published (with certain revisions) as a book. A thesis or a dissertation is subject to a review of scholars in the field before it is accepted by the university providing the degree. These documents may prove to be good sources of information, as they often look at very specific issues or problems. Libraries (including Thomas Library) do not typically purchase copies of theses or dissertations, but they are may available through OhioLINK or Inter-Library Loan.

Proquest, a company in Ann Arbor, Michigan, provides microfilming and distribution of theses and dissertations. Their database, Digital Dissertations, may be searched to determine if a dissertation exists and if it is available. Some recent theses and dissertations are available online through this database.

Electronic Books

The library has access to a collection of electronic books which you may encounter as part of your research. They are identified with the words [Computer File] in the title.


Thomas Library has a large collection of microforms, including microfilm and microfiche. Occasionally an article or book you need may be in a microform format. The Library has microfilm and microfiche reader/printers that you can use to print the article or relevant pages of a book. The cost is $.15 per page.

Scholarly vs. Popular Articles

When conducting research it is critical to know the difference between scholarly and popular articles. Depending on the class and the research topic faculty may not accept popular articles as a basis for your research. Be sure to talk with your professor if you have any questions about the articles you wish to use. The Library has a web page which can provide assistance to you in making the distinction between scholarly and popular articles.

Finding Journal Articles

Online Indexes

America: History and Life - indexes and abstracts articles on North American history. Use this for Vikings in North America. Coverage starts with indexing in 1964 to the present with coverage of topics from prehistory to the present.

Art Abstracts
- indexes and abstracts articles on art and art history. Coverage is from 1929 to the present.

Humanities Index Complete - indexes articles in archaeology, history, religion, theology and other disciplines. It includes full-text for over 770 journals and indexes over 2,000 titles.

JSTOR - JSTOR is an electronic full-text archive of journals in various disciplines, including history.

Religion and Philosophy Collection - provides access to over 300 full-text journals with coverage back from 1975 to the present.

Religion Index - indexes over 1,400 journals and 14,000 edited works related to religious works. Coverage is from 1949 to the present.

Electronic Resources

JSTOR - JSTOR is an electronic full-text archive of journals in various disciplines, including history.

Web Sites

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle - a digitized translation of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, providing a chronological listing of events taking place during the Anglo-Saxon period.

Annals of Ulster - This site provides a digitized version of the Annals of Ulster, an work by an unknown author or authors, providing information on events in Ulster from 431-1201.

Internet Medieval Sourcebook - provides links to a wide range of medieval primary and secondary source material.

Medieval Sourcesonline - a web site providing many links to information about Vikings.

The ORB: Online Reference Book for Medieval Studies - a peer-reviewed web site providing a wide range of information on medieval studies.

Royal Historical Society Bibliography - provides an authoritative guide to research on British and Irish history from the Roman period to the present.

Inter-Library Loan (ILL)

As a student at Wittenberg you have access to a large number of resources, but sometimes the article you want is not available here or through full-text online or the book or video you want is not available here or in Ohiolink. When that happens you need to use our inter-library loan service. By using ILL you can request a copy of an article or a book or video from another library. Most journal articles may not be requested through Ohiolink so you will need to request them on the Thomas Library periodicals ILL form. Check with a Reference Librarian to see if the article you need is available through Ohiolink. Books and videos should be requested on the Thomas Library book ILL form. Items will be delivered at the Circulation desk where you can pick them up and use them. Remember, it can take a few weeks for ILL to be delivered so plan ahead.

Audio-Visual Resources

You may also find audio-visual resources which may be of use to you. These may be videotapes, DVDs, or audio recordings. These are housed in the Audio-Visual Department of the Library and may have special rules about their usage.

Personal Research Consultation (PeRC)

These are one hour appointments with a librarian to discuss your topic and how to proceed with your research. You may schedule them by e-mail, phone or in-person at the reference desk. Doug Lehman is the liaison librarian for the History Department.

Return to Thomas Library Web Page

Web page by Doug Lehman, Wittenberg University
phone: 327-7016

October 10, 2007