The Demise of Viking Democracy

Vikingology Podcast

The Demise of Viking Democracy

Viking Age Iceland was what we might call “progressive.” They had no king or strong central state as had arisen elsewhere in Europe, but instead, starting in 930 A.D. had the Alþing, a public assembly where chieftains and free farmers settled disputes and matters of law by negotiation and consensus. It was a proto-democratic system ahead of its time and is still referred to as the oldest parliamentary system in the world.

But trouble was brewing by the 1200s that would bring matters to a head. Power had been consolidated into the hands of just a prominent few. As those men set their sights on increasing their wealth and status, their democratic system came under threat and the island descended into civil war, culminating in Iceland submitting to the authority of the king of Norway in the 1260s.

In this episode, Terri and C.J. sit down with Peter Konieczny, co-founder end editor of and a historian who specializes in medieval warfare. We talk about the Sturlunga saga, which recounts this fascinating period in history that we may consider the final blow to Iceland’s Viking Age.

To dive into the source directly, read excerpts of Sturlunga saga in English translation.

If you’d like to watch the video of this episode, you’ll find it here.

Vikingology Podcast is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support our work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.

Get full access to Vikingology Podcast at