Social Networks and Community in the Viking Age

Anna Wallette

in Social Brain, Distributed Mind

Published by British Academy

Published in print April 2010 | ISBN: 9780197264522
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734724 | DOI:

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy

Social Networks and Community in the Viking Age

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During the Viking Age, the use of private violence was a precondition for social power. Iceland, for instance, was a law-making community but had no executive power to put the laws into effect. Politics throughout the whole of Scandinavia was based on strong personal relations. This was not a society of uncontrolled violence, but, alongside the development of church and kingdom, the attitude towards a legal type of violence changed. The Icelandic sagas are preoccupied with networks; the alliance patterns described can shed light on the relations between both biological and social kin. This chapter describes competing loyalties through marriage, fostering, friendship, and pledges of support. Kin and marriage systems are the main organization form for people. The discussion also considers alliances and the need for strong bonds with both family and friends at a time when the political and social order was changing.

Keywords: Viking Age; private violence; social power; Iceland; Scandinavia; organization; social order

Chapter.  7180 words. 

Subjects: Psychology

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