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For nearly five centuries, the Hebrides - thought of by later folk as being remote, out of the main stream, and somewhat backward - were part of the thriving Norse empire which stretched from Norway, Denmark, and Sweden westward to Orkney and Shetland, south to the Inner and Outer Hebrides, down to the Isle of Man, over to Ireland, and further west across the great sea to Iceland, Greenland, and North American itself. The Hebrides literally were at the center of this great trade route, seeing ships coming south in the spring and returning northward in the autumn. The Norsemen provided the "information superhighway" of their age, for they carried ideas and new technology from one part of the world to another - from North America in the west to fabled Byzantium in the east. And the Hebrides sat in the midst of it all. By the end of the "Viking Age" in the 13th century, the peoples and cultures of the native Celts and the incoming Norsemen had been welded into one. So it must not be forgotten that the basic culture of the Highlands, and especially of the Islands, is a hybrid one, and that while those of us who hail from there owe much to our Celtic forebears, we also owe much to the hardy Norsemen who ruled over the Isles for nearly half a millennium. In this new work, Dr. W. R. McLeod provides a general introduction to the role and place of the Norsemen in the Hebrides. This is followed by two articles - one by the Rev. Canon R. C. MacLeod, and the other by Miss A. Goodrich-Freer - which examine and analyze different aspects of the Norse contribution to Island society and culture.
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