Seafarers, Merchants and Pirates in the Middle Ages

August 2006
44 colour, 28 black and white illustrations
192 pages
24.4x17.2 cm
Boydell Press

Seafarers, Merchants and Pirates in the Middle Ages

Dirk Meier

Translated by Angus McGeoch


Hardback out of stock

A vivid and highly-illustrated history of seafaring in the Middle Ages based on archaeological evidence and contemporary accounts.
The first sailors braved the North Sea and the Baltic in open wooden boats: their aims were varied - to fish, to trade, to conquer and plunder. Without maps or compasses, they steered by the sun or by landmarks on the coast. Nevertheless they discovered Iceland and North America and explored the rivers that flowed through Europe and Russia into the Black Sea.
With the Frisians and the Vikings, extensive trade routes, better ships, larger harbours and wealthy coastal towns developed. The pinnacle of these advances was the Hansa, a commercial network that ran from Bruges to Riga.
In recent years archaeologists have discovered much about the development of their ships: the elegant Viking longboat, the ubiquitous cog, the carrack and the caravel. Much, too, has been revealed about life in Viking settlements and the bustling Hanseatic cities. In this engaging and highly-illustrated volume, Dirk Meier brings to life the world of the medieval seaman, based on evidence from ship excavations and contemporary accounts of voyages.
Dr Dirk Meier teaches ancient and medieval history and is Head of Coastal Archaeology at the Christian Albrechts University in Kiel, Germany.

Table of Contents

Rivers, coasts and seas: navigation in the early Middle Ages
Experience and innovation: shipbuilding in the Middle Ages
From landmarks to charts: advances in navigation
Dorestad, London, Ribe: the North Sea and its early trading ports
From Hedeby to Vineta: early trading posts on the Baltic
From the Varangians to the Greeks: along the Russian rivers
Early explorers: the Vikings in the North Atlantic
"Terrible portents": Viking expeditions of pillage and conquest
A medieval sea power? The Hanseatic League
"Friends of God and foes of all the world": the Vitalienbrüder privateers
The maritime heritage of the Baltic and the North Sea


Very handsomely presented with contemporary images, present-day photographs of archaeological sites as well as maps. NORTHERN MARINER

Meier combines the evidence of historical, textual sources, and-more crucially-his expert knowledge of archaeology (including recent archaeological excavations), and thus manages to throw light on a neglected area of medieval history. [...] Seafarers, Merchants and Pirates in the Middle Ages is a succinct, concise introduction to the maritime history of northern Europe in the Middle Ages, and will satisfy the interest of both specialists and the general public interested in medieval naval tradition. FOLKLORE
Intended for a general audience [it] provides lucid, informed explanations of ship types, construction methods, celestial navigation, and a host of additional nautical matters. Recommended. CHOICE