1st Edition

Monarchs and Hydrarchs The Conceptual Development of Viking Activity across the Frankish Realm (c. 750–940)

By Christian Cooijmans Copyright 2020
    292 Pages 37 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    292 Pages 37 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    As the politico-economic exploits of vikings in and around the Frankish realm remain, to a considerable extent, obscured by the constraints of a fragmentary and biased corpus of (near-)contemporary evidence, this volume approaches the available interdisciplinary data on a cumulative and conceptual level, allowing overall spatiotemporal patterns of viking activity to be detected and defined – and thereby challenging the notion that these movements were capricious, haphazard, and gratuitous in character.

    Set against a backdrop of continuous commerce and knowledge exchange, this overarching survey demonstrates the existence of a relatively uniform, sequential framework of wealth extraction, encampment, and political engagement, within which Scandinavian fleets operated as adaptable, ambulant polities – or ‘hydrarchies’. By delineating and visualising this framework, a four-phased conceptual development model of hydrarchic conduct and consequence is established, whose validity is substantiated by its application to a number of distinct regional case studies. The parameters of this abstract model affirm that Scandinavian movements across Francia were the result of prudent and expedient decision-making processes, contingent on exchanged intelligence, cumulative experience, and the ongoing individual and collective need for socioeconomic subsistence and enrichment.

    Monarchs and Hydrarchs will appeal to both students and specialists of the Viking Age, whilst serving as an equally valuable resource to those investigating early medieval Francia, Scandinavia, and the North Sea world as a whole.

    I. Introduction;  II. The Scandinavian Perspective;  III. Carolingian Francia;  IV. Earliest Franco-Scandinavian Contact (up to 814);  V. Early Viking Encounters (up to 840);  VI. Intensified Viking Activity (c. 840s-930s);  VII. Conceptual Development Model;  VIII. Concluding Remarks and Discussion


    Christian Cooijmans is a British Academy Research Fellow at the University of Liverpool, UK. Having obtained his doctorate from the University of Edinburgh, his research focusses on the reach and repercussions of viking endeavour across mainland Europe, as well as its ensuing, premodern historiography.

    "Monarchs and Hydrarchs is an original and potentially important piece of work, which challenges widely accepted particularist interpretations of Viking activity in northern continental Europe, and rather seeks a coherent and dynamic understanding of the phenomenon. In applying the concept of ‘hydrarchy’ to the analysis of a range of sources (both well-known and under-researched), the study provides not only new data, but a new theoretical framework for their interpretation. Elegantly written and impressive in its interdisciplinary scope, this volume should be of significant interest to early medieval historians, archaeologists, and other scholars with or without previous knowledge of Scandinavian activity on the Continent."  ~ Dr Steven Ashby, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology, University of York, UK

    "This book is an essential read for anyone engaging on research on the Viking Age in Francia. In Monarchs and Hydrarchs, Cooijmans has combined detailed analysis of viking activity and politics with the application of abstract conceptual models to identify overarching patterns of behaviour. One of the great strengths of the book is Cooijmans’s ability to draw on sources in a variety of languages and from different disciplines to develop an original and overarching survey of this field." ~ Dr Clare Downham, Reader in Irish Studies, University of Liverpool, UK 

    "The contacts between the Scandinavian world and the Frankish realm of Charlemagne and beyond have been commonly viewed through the lens of near-contemporary sources of variable bias, limited onomastic elements, and even fewer archaeological finds. An awareness of the incursions along the major waterways underpins our basic knowledge of the region. These rivers, selected as case study regions (Loire, Seine, and the Lower Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt basin) are viewed here by Cooijmans as ‘representing expansive corridors of waterborne commerce and communication’ and, crucially, the points of convergence of mariners from various origins – not only those from the northern neighbours. However, in exploring and indeed characterising the so-called hydrarchy established through targeted contact (up to the 840s CE) and intensive activity (840s–930s CE) in the region, Monarchs and Hydrarchs enables insight into changes from passing contact to permanent settlement in Francia.
    Through the development of a temporal model, where the contact is subdivided into four distinct elements, commencing before the death of Charlemagne in 814 and progressing in intensity into the 930s, the author critically assesses the sources and demonstrates a clarity in the expedient decision-making of the vikings, based on ‘exchanges of intelligence, cumulative experience, and the collective need for socioeconomic subsistence and enrichment’. These words are the author’s, succinctly phrased and economically expressed, a true feature of the writing style of this volume. Through the detailed examination of the written sources in combination with a critical assessment of earlier scholarship, this author makes full use of the views of earlier scholars – building upon their strengths rather than fashionably demolishing all that has been written before. This is a valuable and major contribution to scholarship which will be well-cited for many years to come." ~ Dr Colleen Batey,Senior Lecturer in Archaeology, University of Glasgow, UK

    "Monarchs and Hydrarchs provides the field with a new way of examining and understanding viking activity. It is worth noting that, although this monograph is part of the Routledge Archaeologies of the Viking World series, Cooijmans draws upon both archaeological materials and literary sources, and does so effortlessly in a way to which all scholars of the early medieval period should aspire. Accompanied by excellent summaries of the context, and well-illustrated throughout with maps, genealogical tables and spatial representations of the model, the book will be especially useful to early career researchers, yet there is much here that more experienced scholars will also want to consider." ~ Richard Broome, Sehepunkte

    "Monarchs and Hydrarchs will undoubtably push the study and discussion of Franco-Scandinavian interaction forward. Beyond the thorough analysis itself, the book is replete with useful charts, tables, and maps which will delight both graduate students and established scholars alike. No more will each individual have to scour the numerous annals to compile a list of attacks, encampments, and tribute payments, for instance. In this, Cooijmans has given a gift to the field. Above all, no work of this detail and breadth exists and it was sorely needed. With his thoughtful analysis of the available data, and his ability to read between the lines and extrapolate out patterns, Cooijmans exposes the complexity of Viking activity on the Continent. He champions new ways of conceptualizing Viking activity and organization, centered on the agency, rationality, and flexibility of the Norse. The work is without a doubt a must read whether one is specifically interested in Franco-Scandinavian engagement or in the Viking Age as a whole." - Daniel F. Melleno, The Medieval Review

    "Cooijmans has assembled a marvellous collection of primary sources, absolutely bursting with practical information on viking logistics. Maps and charts illustrate and summarise references to envoys from Scandinavia, viking camps, Frankish countermeasures, tribute payments, hostages, ransomed individuals, and more. His argument — that vikings were very organised, very plugged-in to local networks— is extremely persuasive. He avoids the familiar stereotypes and offers instead vikings in context: they were serious, dangerous, and resourceful, but not aberrations or incomprehensibly strange." ~ Prof. Lesley Abrams, Peritia

    "The volume benefts from Cooijmans’ clear, lucid prose. It is well illustrated, with a number of maps and family trees to orientate the reader, as well as representations of the phased spatial schematic. The meticulous tables alone — of raids, leaders or hydrarchs, and encampments mentioned in the annals — are a valuable resource for those interested in viking activity in Francia. This book overall helps to fill an important gap in the market." ~ Dr Caitlin Ellis, The Mediæval Journal

    "…a very useful and accessible volume for teaching and as a point of departure for anyone working on Scandinavian–Frankish contact in this period." - Robert Evans, Early Medieval Europe


    "This book is probably the best discussion of logistics and motivations of monarchs and hydrarchs of this period. It is to be highly recommended not just to students of 'the vikings' but to any mediaevalist." ~ Dr. Alex Woolf, Saga-Book