Viking-Age Trade : Silver, Slaves and Gotland book cover
1st Edition

Viking-Age Trade
Silver, Slaves and Gotland

ISBN 9781138293946
Published October 7, 2020 by Routledge
498 Pages 97 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

That there was an influx of silver dirhams from the Muslim world into eastern and northern Europe in the ninth and tenth centuries is well known, as is the fact that the largest concentration of hoards is on the Baltic island of Gotland. Recent discoveries have shown that dirhams were reaching the British Isles, too. What brought the dirhams to northern Europe in such large numbers? The fur trade has been proposed as one driver for transactions, but the slave trade offers another – complementary – explanation.

This volume does not offer a comprehensive delineation of the hoard finds, or a full answer to the question of what brought the silver north. But it highlights the trade in slaves as driving exchanges on a trans-continental scale. By their very nature, the nexuses were complex, mutable and unclear even to contemporaries, and they have eluded modern scholarship. Contributions to this volume shed light on processes and key places: the mints of Central Asia; the chronology of the inflows of dirhams to Rus and northern Europe; the reasons why silver was deposited in the ground and why so much ended up on Gotland; the functioning of networks – perhaps comparable to the twenty-first-century drug trade; slave-trading in the British Isles; and the stimulus and additional networks that the Vikings brought into play.

This combination of general surveys, presentations of fresh evidence and regional case studies sets Gotland and the early medieval slave trade in a firmer framework than has been available before.

Table of Contents

1. Why Gotland? 

Jonathan Shepard


2. Reading between the lines: Tracking slaves and slavery in the early middle ages 

David Wyatt

3. Slavery in medieval Scandinavia: Some points of departure 

Stefan Brink

4. The fur trade in the early middle ages 

James Howard-Johnston

5. The dynamics of the drugs trade: A model for the study of the medieval trade in slaves? 

Andrew P. Roach and Alex Marshall


6. Dirham flows into northern and eastern Europe and the rhythms of the slave trade with the Islamic world 

Marek Jankowiak

7. Trading networks, warlords and hoarders: Islamic coin flows into Poland in the Viking Age 

Dariusz Adamczyk

8. Coin circulation in early Rus and the dynamics of the druzhina

Viacheslav S. Kuleshov


9. Hoards, silver, context and the Gotlandic alternative 

Jacek Gruszczyński

10. Hoards and their archaeological context: Three case studies from Gotland 

Majvor Östergren

11. Gotland: Silver island 

Dan Carlsson

12. Silver hoards and society on Viking-Age Gotland: Some thoughts on the relationship between silver, long-distance trade and local communities 

Christoph Kilger

13. From the foreign to the familiar: The arrival and circulation of silver in Gotlandic society 

Ny Björn Gustafsson

14. Was there life before death? The Viking settlements on Gotland 

Per Widerström

15. Social structures and landscape: Gotland’s silver hoards in the context of settlements 

Gustaf Svedjemo


16. Gotland viewed from the Swedish mainland 

Ingmar Jansson

17. Silver hoarding on Bornholm and Gotland: Hoards as windows onto Viking-Age life 

Gitte Tarnow Ingvardson

18. Coins as an indicator of communications between the British Isles and Scandinavia in the Viking Age 

Elina Screen

19. Viking economies and the Great Army: Interpreting the precious metal finds from Torksey, Lincolnshire 

Andrew R. Woods

20. Viking-Age bullion from southern Scandinavia and the Baltic region in Ireland 

John Sheehan


21. Some reflections on Gotland: Slavery, slave-traders, and slave-takers 

Dagfinn Skre

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Jacek Gruszczyński was a Research Associate at the Khalili Research Centre, University of Oxford and now works as an archaeology and heritage consultant.

Marek Jankowiak is Associate Professor of Byzantine History at the University of Oxford.

Jonathan Shepard was University Lecturer in Russian History at the University of Cambridge.