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Cross and Scepter

Cross and Scepter: The Rise of the Scandinavian Kingdoms from the Vikings to the Reformation

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 408
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    Cross and Scepter
    Book Description:

    Christianity and European-style monarchy-the cross and the scepter-were introduced to Scandinavia in the tenth century, a development that was to have profound implications for all of Europe.Cross and Scepteris a concise history of the Scandinavian kingdoms from the age of the Vikings to the Reformation, written by Scandinavia's leading medieval historian. Sverre Bagge shows how the rise of the three kingdoms not only changed the face of Scandinavia, but also helped make the territorial state the standard political unit in Western Europe. He describes Scandinavia's momentous conversion to Christianity and the creation of church and monarchy there, and traces how these events transformed Scandinavian law and justice, military and administrative organization, social structure, political culture, and the division of power among the king, aristocracy, and common people. Bagge sheds important new light on the reception of Christianity and European learning in Scandinavia, and on Scandinavian history writing, philosophy, political thought, and courtly culture. He looks at the reception of European impulses and their adaptation to Scandinavian conditions, and examines the relationship of the three kingdoms to each other and the rest of Europe, paying special attention to the inter-Scandinavian unions and their consequences for the concept of government and the division of power.

    Cross and Scepterprovides an essential introduction to Scandinavian medieval history for scholars and general readers alike, offering vital new insights into state formation and cultural change in Europe.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5010-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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    (pp. vii-x)
    Sverre Bagge
    (pp. 1-8)

    In this story from the IcelandicLjósvetninga Saga,power is concentrated in a big fist in a way that recalls Hobbes’s characterization of primitive man, whose life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” There is constant competition and the physically strongest is likely to win, as in the competition for leadership among animals.

    With increasing institutionalization, physical power is replaced by legitimate birth, specific qualifications, or formal election, and the fist by symbols of authority. Such symbols no doubt existed in Scandinavia from early on, but they assumed particular importance with the introduction of Christianity and the formation of...

  3. CHAPTER ONE The Origins of the Scandinavian Kingdoms
    (pp. 9-49)

    Although most histories of Scandinavia, including the present one, focus on the period from the formation of the kingdoms in the tenth and eleventh centuries, the area as a whole has a long history going back to the first settlements which date to the end of the last glacial age around 10,000 BC. The earliest inhabitants were hunters and gatherers. Agriculture was introduced gradually from around 4000 BC, first in the form of slash and burn cultivation, later with the establishment of permanent settlement. Already during the last centuries BC, a largely homogenous agricultural zone had developed in Denmark, southern...

  4. CHAPTER TWO The Consolidation of the Scandinavian Kingdoms, c. 1050–1350
    (pp. 50-118)

    On the morning of November 22, 1286, King Erik V Klipping of Denmark was found dead in his bed with fifty-six wounds in his body. “The king was killed by his own men, those whom he loved so much,” says a contemporary chronicler. The way Erik was killed constitutes clear evidence of a conspiracy. Each of the conspirators had dealt the king one or more wounds, all of which were above the waist, suggesting an “honorable” killing by men of rank, not an attack by a band of robbers. Who the murderers were has remained unknown to this day, but...

  5. CHAPTER THREE State Formation, Social Change, and the Division of Power
    (pp. 119-173)

    In the previous chapter, we traced a series of changes from the eleventh to the thirteenth century: the development of monarchy as an institution and the end of regicides; the introduction of Christianity and the development of the ecclesiastical bureaucracy; the introduction of public justice and royal legislation; the organization of the military forces under the king’s leadership; and the formation of a military elite. To what extent are we dealing here with state formation, and how great were the changes in society from the previous period? Are the changes discussed above evidence of a greater centralization of society under...

  6. CHAPTER FOUR Royal, Aristocratic, and Ecclesiastical Culture
    (pp. 174-231)

    The social and institutional change discussed in the previous chapters has a parallel in the cultural field, for art, architecture and literature are the products of institutions and social classes: in this case of the Scandinavian monarchy, Church, and aristocracy. The art and literature they created add to our understanding of their values and concerns. These sources also shed light on the question of change vs. continuity over time and help to untangle the threads of culture that derive from local traditions vs. European impulses.

    The relationship between Scandinavia and the rest of Europe has been the subject of particularly...

  7. CHAPTER FIVE The Later Middle Ages: Agrarian Crisis, Constitutional Conflicts, and Scandinavian Unions
    (pp. 232-289)

    The mid-fourteenth century marks a new epoch all over Europe. A new and terrible disease, the Black Death, arrived from Eastern Asia late in 1346 and spread from Italy to the rest of Europe over the course of the following years. Calculations of mortality vary from one third to half of the population. Moreover, the disease returned at irregular intervals until the mid-seventeenth century (and in some places well into the eighteenth century), although its spread and mortality seem gradually to have decreased. Thus, the relationship between land and people changed drastically; there was now plenty of land but few...

  8. CONCLUSION Scandinavian State Formation 900–1537: Break and Continuity
    (pp. 290-292)

    According to some scholars, notably Charles Tilly, the European state was formed during the Early Modern Period rather than the Middle Ages, not only in the sense that the change from personal to impersonal rule took place in this period, but also because it was then that the territorial divisions themselves were formed. It was therefore still an open question around 1500 whether Europe would be divided into national states or petty principalities or would become one great empire. The preceding examination of the Scandinavian kingdoms has not confirmed this hypothesis. Although the three kingdoms were apparently the products of...

    (pp. 293-300)

    There is a continuous tradition of historical writing from the Middle Ages to the present day in all three of the Scandinavian kingdoms, as well as in Iceland, though admittedly it began later (not until the early fourteenth century) in Sweden than in the other countries. The works dating from the Middle Ages have already been discussed. Those of the Early Modern Period are of interest as evidence of learning and for an understanding of how “history” was viewed at the time, and also because they contain a number of documents from the Middle Ages whose originals have been lost....

    (pp. 301-314)