Sagans svenskar : Synen på vikingatiden och de isländska sagorna under 300 år

Sammanfattning: “The Swedes of the Sagas. A Historiographical Study of the Old Norse Sagas and the Construction of the Viking Age.” This thesis is related to the construction of collective identities, and the search for a common ancestry. There are different types of characteristics which have been associated with the Viking Age, and this is a historiographical study of how a few, well-known, Swedish historians have used the Icelandic Sagas in their presentation of the period known today as the Viking Age. The Professor of Medicine, Olof Rudbeck, wrote a famous piece on Swedish history, called Atlantica (1679–1702). The Icelandic Sagas came to be of considerable importance for him when he upgraded the ancestors of the Swedes. The 17th Century Swedes embodied the oldest – and best preserved – virtues, and furthermore, inhabited one of the oldest – and best organised – realms in the world. But research during the 17th Century was based on ethnical theology, and Rudbeck did not distinguish between different nationalities or ethnic communities. Instead, he saw differentiation within a common stock. The Historian of the Realm, Olof von Dalin, and the Professor of History, Sven Lagerbring, visualized a law-abiding community in the Old Norse Sagas, characterised by justice and simplicity, and hard-working men and women. The ancestors were idealised, not as the proud Viking-warrior, but as original democrats, and noble heathens. During the 19th Century, the Sagas acquired new readers. Mythology received new attention, but not as historical sources as such. Erik Gustaf Geijer, Professor of History, argued that citizens of the Swedish nation should be able to recognize their forefathers’ love for their homeland, expressed in freedom and equality. The best-selling historian Carl Grimberg was interested in the war-like nature of the Nordic-Germanic Viking. But the critical discussion in Grimberg’s day was developed by scholars who concentrated on the Viking Age, and the Sagas, when they encouraged a positivistic ideal. When Ingvar Andersson and Jerker Rosén wrote their historical syntheses, in the 1940s and the 1960s, a more radical criticism of sources dominated. The Sagas were not treated as historical sources anymore. They were exclusively seen as fiction. However, as I have shown in this thesis, Rosén uses them in passing. But in the middle of the 20th Century, Swedish historians did not want to produce any ethnic myths of origin for the nation that had supposedly originated in the Viking Age.