The Earliest States of Eastern Europe
DG-2013, 801-835

Early Scandinavian historiography: To the problem of national Christian identity formation (concerning the collection of articles “Historical Narratives and Christian Identity on a European Periphery: Early History Writing in Northern, East-Central, and Eastern Europe (c. 1070-1200)” / Ed. by Ildar H. Garipzanov. Turnhout: Brepols, 2011. ISBN 9782503533674)

T. Jackson

The reader holds now a detailed review of a collection of articles “Historical Narratives and Christian Identity on a European Periphery: Early History Writing in Northern, East-Central, and Eastern Europe (c. 1070–1200)” edited by Ildar H. Garipzanov and published in 2011. The purpose of this volume was to present a complete overview of the main early historical narratives written on the northern and eastern periphery of Europe from about 1070 to 1200, and to focus chiefly on their role in the construction of Christian identity in the first century after the adoption of Christianity. Unfortunately, the selected topic as well as the source material have not made it possible to draw a uniform picture of the process. And the reason for this is not only the diversity of modern national historiographies, which is rightly pointed to in the introduction written by the editor, but also some shortcomings of the original intention. Doubtful, in particular, seems an a priori belief that every early historical text should show up a tendency for the formation of Christian identity and/or an explication of the author’s attitude towards the pre-Christian (= pagan) past. With that, we have to agree with the editor that such polyphony helps us to better understand both medieval literary culture and modern medieval studies. In the opinion of the reviewer, early medieval historiography should be subdivided not along the linguistic lines: Latin op. national language (as is done in the book), but on the historical and geographical basis: Danish and Swedish historiographies (somewhy not even mentioned in the book), Icelandic and Norwegian, close in their origin (since Iceland had been settled primarily from Norway) but differing in genres that had emerged under the consequence of profound differences in the social structure of the two states (the Kingdom of Norway, with its holy kings and the democracy in Iceland with its saint bishops). Strategies of expressing (formulating) Christian identity in Old Norse narratives, as the book demonstrates, are really diverse. Despite some shortcomings, the book under review is a solid, valuable and commendable work of a large group of leading specialists and experts in the field of those early medieval sources that are discussed here.