Medieval Iceland was unique amongst Western Europe, with foreign policy, defence forces, king, lords, peasants and few battles. It should have been a utopia yet its literature is dominated by brutality and killing. The reasons for this, argues Jesse Byock, lie in the underlying structures and cultural codes of the islands' social order. 'Viking Age Iceland' is an engaging, multi-disciplinary work bringing together findings in anthropology and ethgraphy interwoven with historical fact and masterful insights into the popular Icelandic sagas, this is a brilliant reconstruction of the inner workings of a unique and intriguing society.
Jesse Byock is Director of Norse Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. Educated at Harvard, the Sorbonne, Georgetown University Law School, the Universities of Iceland and Lund, he is also a member of UCLA's archaeology, folklore and Indo-European faculties. His books include 'Feud in the Icelandic Saga'; 'Medieval Iceland Society, Sagas and Power', a translation of 'The Saga of the Volsungs: The Norse Epic of Sigurd the Dragon Slayer'