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Social Brain, Distributed Mind$
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Robin Dunbar, Clive Gamble, and John Gowlett

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780197264522

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197264522.001.0001

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Social Networks and Community in the Viking Age

Social Networks and Community in the Viking Age

(p.135) 7 Social Networks and Community in the Viking Age
Social Brain, Distributed Mind

Anna Wallette

British Academy

During the Viking Age, the use of private violence was a precondition for social power. Iceland, for instance, was a law-making community but had no executive power to put the laws into effect. Politics throughout the whole of Scandinavia was based on strong personal relations. This was not a society of uncontrolled violence, but, alongside the development of church and kingdom, the attitude towards a legal type of violence changed. The Icelandic sagas are preoccupied with networks; the alliance patterns described can shed light on the relations between both biological and social kin. This chapter describes competing loyalties through marriage, fostering, friendship, and pledges of support. Kin and marriage systems are the main organization form for people. The discussion also considers alliances and the need for strong bonds with both family and friends at a time when the political and social order was changing.

Keywords:   Viking Age, private violence, social power, Iceland, Scandinavia, organization, social order

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