Book Series The North Atlantic World, vol. 8

Alternative Facts and Plausible Fictions in the Northern European Past

How Politics and Culture Have Written and Rewritten History

Oisín Plumb, Alexandra Sanmark (eds)

  • Pages: approx. 200 p.
  • Size:156 x 234 mm
  • Illustrations:18 b/w, 16 col.
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2024

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-60575-3
  • Hardback
  • Forthcoming (Aug/24)



Oisín Plumb, lecturer, Institute for Northern Studies, UHI, Perth
Alexandra Sanmark, Professor of Medieval Archaeology, Institute for Northern Studies, UHI, Perth


The use of the past for contemporary purposes has been a feature of historical and archaeological investigation from ancient times. This ‘politicization of the past’ is often associated with, at best, an inadvertent detachment from an objective use of evidence, and at worst, its wilful misuse. Such use of the past is perhaps most evident in the construction of narratives of nations and ethnic groups — particularly in relation to origins or the perceived ‘golden ages’ of peoples.

This book seeks to assess the role played by different ideologies in the shaping of the past, from early times up until the present day, in the interpretation of the history and archaeology of Northern Europe, whether in Northern Europe itself or further afield. It also considers how those who research, interpret, and present the Northern European past should respond to such uses. The chapters drawn together here explore key questions, asking how contemporary ideologies of identity have shaped the past, what measures should be taken to discourage an inaccurate understanding of the past, and if scholars should draw on the past in order to counter racism and xenophobia, or if this can itself lead to potentially dangerous misunderstandings of history.


List of Illustrations

1. Introduction
Oisín Plumb and Alex Sanmark

2. Finnar, Skrælingar and the Orkney Picts: A Comparative Study of the Imagined ‘Other’ in Early Medieval Norse Culture
Tara Athanasiou

3. The Icelandic Sagas and the Importance of Social Status in Viking Age Identity
Patrick Temperilli

4. Shifting Views of Scotland’s Past in Nineteenth-Century German-language Travelogues
Bernhard Maier

5. Reinterpreting the Celtic Past in Scotland: The Pre-War Work of John Duncan
Frances Fowle

6. ‘From the Curved Branches of Skulls’: Old Norse and Origins of the Gothic romance
Peter J. Church

7. American Valkyries: Equality, Exclusion, and Old Norse Imagery in the Nineteenth-Century Struggle for Women’s Rights
Zachary J. Melton

8. Between Finland and Asia: The Changing Medievalist Models in Hungarian Nation-Building during the Interwar Period
Andrea Kocsis

9.Anglo-Saxon’ identity: A Critique from the Graveside
Stuart Brookes

10. The Political Dimensions of Archaeology Today: A Personal View
Caroline Wickham-Jones