Begin your learning

This six-week course features weekly live video sessions with the instructor plus resources and readings. The next course starts January 5th with a live class from 5:00 - 7:00pm Eastern U.S. time.

Week 1

Society and Aspects of Daily Life

Week one introduces how Norse society was structured and how people lived. Just who was a Viking? What did they wear or do for fun? Were there shieldmaidens? The discussion includes social classes, gender, and the importance of family. We’ll also touch on basics such as housing, food, healing, and other facets of daily life.

Week 2

Politics and Leadership

In week two learn about politics and legal/judicial systems with particular emphasis on the Alþingi assembly in Iceland. Vikings were led by chieftains who wielded power but only within a system of reciprocity with their fellow free farmers that was constantly being negotiated. Political power was not absolute. Learn why one scholar has called their system a “proto-democracy.”

Week 3

Expansion into the Wider World

Week three covers the raiding and trading that Vikings are famous for. They expanded out from Scandinavia in unprecedented numbers and in many directions. The reasons why and how they accomplished their goals are still debated by historians. But there is no doubt they made contact with many cultures and their presence was widely felt.

Week 4

Norse Language and Art

In week four we look at traditional language and art. Old Norse and the runic alphabet dominated in a time when oral culture and storytelling were hallmarks of Viking life. We’ll discuss literary forms like sagas and poetry, as well as runic inscriptions. Their art was part of a wider Germanic tradition focusing on form and function. We will examine the materials, methods, and primary styles of the period.

Week 5

Norse Mythology

In week five the discussion turns to the Norse worldview in the pre-Christian period. Vikings were polytheistic and had a very complex cosmology. Gods, goddesses, giants, dwarves, and elves…and that only scratches the surface. Learn the basics of this interesting system we call “Norse Mythology.”

Week 6

The Coming of Christianity

The series ends with an important cultural shift during the Viking Age when Scandinavians abandoned their traditional polytheism and became Christian like the rest of Western Europe. Learn the reasons why they ultimately converted and how that affected what it meant to be a “Viking.”

Meet Your Instructor

Terri Barnes

Terri Barnes is a medievalist historian from Portland, Oregon. Her primary area of research and teaching is northern Europe with particular emphasis on the Viking Age. Since 2004 she has been History faculty at Portland Community College where she also served as Social Science Department co-chair for 12 years. Terri’s work has been published in several academic journals, magazines, and online at Medievalists.net. History is her passion, and she counts herself fortunate to have a career where she can share it with people through the classroom, social media, and public speaking events. When she’s not teaching she’s running, traveling, or cooking delicious things to share on her YouTube channel “Shieldmaiden in the Kitchen.” She has also fallen in love with Iceland, its Viking Age history, culture, and people, and spends part of each year there during her breaks from the academic teaching year.

What Terri’s students say

“This is such an interesting class and with a professor who I'm convinced was born to teach it. Any student interested in Viking history should count themselves lucky to learn from her! She is so knowledgeable about the subject yet approachable and nonjudgmental about student questions. That is to say, Professor Barnes creates the perfect learning environment for learning about history.”

“Her passion for the material and for scholarship in general is incredibly contagious.”

“I have always liked history, but until her classes, I had no idea that I loved history.”

“Terri keeps the class fresh and fun with each week being a different aspect or particular theme of Viking culture or life. Taking this Viking History class was one of the most rewarding experiences I've had.”

“Being given the opportunity to take Terri’s Viking History course has had a profoundly positive impact on me as a student.”

“Professor Barnes's passion for her subject creates an extremely fun and enriching learning environment. Her Viking History class is worth every amount of money and energy I used for it.”

What other medievalist academics say

“You're in good hands with Prof. Terri Barnes. She is a master teacher whose classes on the Viking Age fill in a flash, and a sensitive and insightful interpreter of the medieval Scandinavian past. I have learned a great deal from her. You will, too.”

Dr. John Ott, History Dept. Chair, Portland State University

“Let Terri Barnes be your guide to the Vikings! This course has it all – covering the Viking Age holistically from the Vikings’ idea of a good time back home in Scandinavia, to their shocking raids on English monasteries, and their intrepid transatlantic voyages that saw them reach the eastern shores of North America. An accomplished teacher of Scandinavian history and a published author in the field of Viking Studies, Terri expertly shows how English chronicles, Icelandic sagas, Arab travelogues, and recent archaeological and scientific discoveries can be woven together to tell an unprecedentedly vivid story of the Vikings.”

Dr. Davide Zori, Associate Professor of History and Archaeology, Baylor University

Sneak Peek: Terri talks about shieldmaidens