The North Atlantic World - Land and Sea as Cultural Space – AD 400-1900. 

Brepols book series from the Institute for Northern Studies

The North Atlantic World is a book series produced in cooperation with Brepols Publishers. This series covers a geographical region that stretches from Northern Europe and Scandinavia across to the Eastern seaboards of Canada and the United States of America, and a timeframe that expands from the Late Iron Age up to the early modern period, the boundaries of this series are set deliberately broad in order to inspire research that spans geographical and chronological divisions and that seeks to compare and contrast elements of the North Atlantic World. It is envisaged that the series will provide a forum for comparative and inter-disciplinary research from a variety of fields, in particular archaeology, history, literature, languages, and folklore.

The editorial board consists of experts in the history, archaeology and culture of the wider North Atlantic.

Series editor: Dr Alexandra Sanmark. Other board members: Prof. Donna Heddle, Dr Andrew Jennings, Prof Natascha Mehler (Honorary Reader) and Prof. Kevin Edwards.

For more information, or to discuss a proposal, please contact Dr Alexandra Sanmark.

The first in the series is available now

Published volumes: What is North?: Imagining the North from Ancient Times to the Present Day

This volume examines the North Atlantic World's relationship with 'the North'. It brings together twenty articles by a diverse range of scholars of history, literature and language. The volume emerged from the third International St Magnus Conference, which took place in Kirkwall on 14‐16 April 2016. The theme of the conference was ‘Visualising the North’.

The varied chapters highlight a number of key questions examining the place of ‘the North’ in the psyche of the North Atlantic World: Does the North have any definable characteristics? Where is it located? Who, or what, lives there? A wide range of themes are covered, charting the North Atlantic World's engagement with the north from the early medieval period to the present day- from medieval accounts of sea monsters to modern tales of polar exploration.

Oisín Plumb, Over the storm-swelled sea: Picts and Britons in the early medieval Irish church

Between the fifth and ninth centuries, the interaction of people in Britain, Ireland, and their surrounding islands was constantly shaping and reshaping life and culture. In the church, the impact of Irish travellers to Britain was profound and the fame of monasteries such as Iona, which they established, remains to this day. Aside from the role of Patrick himself, the input of migrants from Britain to Ireland is much less well known today. However, the impact of the Picts and Britons who travelled to Ireland was significant. This book examines the evidence for these travellers who journeyed west across the sea. It asks what can be pieced together of the lives of British and Pictish men and women in the Irish Church, from the often fragmentary evidence. It also considers how writers of later ages viewed these migrants, and considers how the shaping of the ‘migration narrative’ throughout the centuries had a profound effect on the way that the earliest centuries of the church came to be viewed in later years in both Scotland and Ireland.

Rebecca Merkelbach and Gwendolyn Knight (eds.), Margins, Monsters, Deviants: Alterities in Old Norse Literature and Culture (2020)

This anthology explores depictions of alterity, monstrosity and deviation in medieval Icelandic literature, Scandinavian history, and beyond. The authors explore issues of identity, genre, character and text and the interplay between them, challenging long-held perceptions about the lack of ambiguity in Old Norse literature and culture.

Medieval Icelandic literature has often been reduced to the supposedly realist Íslendingasögur and their main protagonists at the expense of other genres and characters. Indeed, such a focus obscures and erases the importance of those beings and narratives that move on the margins of mainstream culture — whether socially, ethnically, ontologically, or textually. This volume aims to offer a new perspective on a variety of theoretical and comparative approaches to explore depictions of alterity, monstrosity, and deviation. Engaging with the interplay of genre, character, text, and culture, and exploring questions of behavioural, socio-cultural, and textual alterity, these contributions examine subjects ranging from the study of fragmented and ‘Othered’ saga narratives, to attitudes towards foreign people and lands, and alterities in mythological and legendary texts. Together the papers effectively challenge long-held perceptions about the lack of ambiguity in medieval Icelandic literature, and offer a far more nuanced understanding of the importance of the ‘Other’ in that society.

Other publications

Northern Atlantic Islands and the Sea: Seascapes and Dreamscapes, eds. Andrew Jennings, Silke Reeploeg, Angela Watt (Cambridge Scholars Publishing 2017)

Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Orkney, Shetland and, to some extent, the Hebrides, share both a Nordic cultural and linguistic heritage, and the experience of being surrounded by the ever-present North Atlantic Ocean. This has been a constant in the islanders’ history, forging their unique way of life, influencing their customs and traditions, and has been instrumental in moulding their identities. This volume is an exploration of a rich, intimate and, at times, terrifying relationship. It is the result of the Second International St Magnus Conference held in April 2014, when scholars from across the North Atlantic rim congregated in Lerwick, Shetland, to discuss maritime traditions, islands in Old Norse literature, insular archaeology, folklore, and traditional belief. The chapters reflect the varied origins and interests of the contributors.

Across the Sólundarhaf: Connections between Scotland and the Nordic World. Selected Papers from the Inaugural St. Magnus Conference 2011, eds. Andrew Jennings and Alexandra Sanmark, Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 4, 2013.

This publication constitutes the legacy of the Inaugural St. Magnus Conference, held at the Centre for Nordic Studies, UHI, in Kirkwall in April 2011. The volume contains an admirable breadth and depth of scholarship, and the chapters reflect the range of research presently being undertaken into the many aspects of the connections between the British Isles and Scandinavia.

Northern Heritage, ed. Donna Heddle (UHI Press, Inverness, 2006)

This book was the result of a Northern Peripheries Programme project to create a module in Northern Heritage to be taught across the Virtual Learning Community of Scandinavia. The project team was from Scotland, Norway, Iceland, Sweden, and Finland. Together we produced something unique with the following aims:

  1. To develop an appreciation and understanding of the diverse nature of Northern Periphery communities from a variety of perspectives;
  2. To celebrate the cultural links between such communities;
  3. To develop a basic understanding of the historical, geographical, geological, cultural, and environmental factors that have shaped the communities of the Northern Periphery;
  4. To raise awareness of the key social, economic, educational, and political issues affecting the Northern Periphery;
  5. To develop an understanding of the relationship between identity - personal, local, and national, - and place.

The essays in the book summarise the large amount of learning material created.

The project team, led by Prof Heddle, were:

  • Stig-Olof Holm, University of Umeå, Sweden
  • Bente Røed Larsen, Bodø University College, Norway
  • Kristín Sóley Björnsdóttir, University of Akureyri, Iceland
  • Jarmo Ritalahti, Rovaniemi Polytechnic, Finland.