The most praiseworthy journey: Scandinavian market networks in the Viking Age

Horne, Tom (2014) The most praiseworthy journey: Scandinavian market networks in the Viking Age. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Printed Thesis Information:


Between AD c.860 and c.970, hundreds of thousands of silver coins (dirhams) from Central Asia reached Scandinavia, where evidence suggests adoption within market environments as commodity-money within a hacksilver currency. Although several hundred dirhams are found in hoards and as single-finds in Britain and Ireland, the extension of this ‘economic’ phenomenon here is rarely discussed due to a focus on social exchange. This bias comes from a failure to incorporate market-based network theory developed in recent Scandinavian Baltic studies on the back of that region’s dirham influx, and the excavation there of market sites like Birka, Hedeby, and Kaupang probably responsible for their further dissemination.
Considered for the first time, then, this study allows an Insular dirham dataset assembled in a new database to be interpreted beyond the restrictive corpus of Viking-Age Insular exchange literature. The Baltic perspectives, centred on the nodal network role of hub markets like Hedeby in Jutland, offer the best model of how long-distance exchange operated in the period c.850-950. Accordingly, the nodal Insular Scandinavian import and export sites of Dublin and York are contextualised within the distribution of Insular dirham deposits to characterise the economic and social context of this network.
Beyond the dirhams, this ‘Silver Route’ network is considered responsible for the bi-directional trade of high-value commodities between Insular Scandinavia, England, and the Baltic. Thus, a new non-numismatic database includes pieces considered to have arrived in Britain and Ireland in concert with the dirhams. This database – included in a CD alongside the dirham data – includes metrological equipment, jewellery, amber, silk, and silver of Scandinavian Baltic, Eastern European, and Central Asian origin. Like the numismatic material, the non-numismatic data support a model of network kingdoms, defined as polities based on control of nodal/hub markets and influence over the trade routes connecting them, with the latter aspect requiring royal co-operation with independent long-distance and regional traders.
From this point of departure, a case is made for Ívarr and the Uí Ímair using control of Dublin and York to introduce an import and currency package to Britain and Ireland from a possible homeland in a ‘Danish Corridor’ focussed on Kaupang and Hedeby. This idea of market-centric polities is alloyed by the use of post-substantivist economic theory, which argues that nodal-market sites encouraged the social and exchange conditions where market economics and production could flourish. While it is accepted that socially-embedded exchange dominated Viking-Age Scandinavia, post-substantivism allows for the increasing import of market exchange, and it is applied to Insular Scandinavia for the first time here.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Due to copyright restrictions the full text of this thesis cannot be made available online. Access to the printed version is available.
Keywords: Vikings, Viking trade.
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities > Archaeology
Supervisor's Name: Batey, Dr. Colleen
Date of Award: 2014
Depositing User: Tom Horne
Unique ID: glathesis:2014-5255
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 10 Jul 2014 14:15
Last Modified: 06 Jul 2017 07:51

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