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The Vanished Settlers of Greenland
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  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Expected online publication date: June 2023
  • Print publication year: 2023
  • Online ISBN: 9781009359450
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Book description

For four hundred years, Norse settlers battled to make southern Greenland a new, sustainable home. They strove against gales and winter cold, food shortages and in the end a shifting climate. The remnants they left behind speak of their determination to wrest an existence at the foot of this vast, icy and challenging wilderness. Yet finally, seemingly suddenly, they vanished; and their mysterious disappearance in the fifteenth century has posed a riddle to scholars ever since. What happened to the lost Viking colonists? For centuries people assumed their descendants could still be living, so expeditions went to find them: to no avail. Robert Rix tells the gripping story of the missing pioneers, placing their poignant history in the context of cultural discourse and imperial politics. Ranging across fiction, poetry, navigation, reception and tales of exploration, he expertly delves into one of the most contested questions in the annals of colonization.


‘The Vanished Settlers of Greenland embeds speculation about the fate – or survival – of the Norse medieval Greenlandic colony in a series of historical contexts, demonstrating the long and deep roots of the European imaginative fascination with the Arctic and its peoples. Moving adeptly between political and cultural history, ethnography, literary criticism and post-colonial critique, Rix's study is indispensable to understanding Greenland's colonial past – and its changing present.'

Carolyne Larrington - University of Oxford

‘This remarkable book is a detailed account of European misconceptions, legends and dreams about Greenland as a sort of Arctic Eldorado, where the supposed survival of a colony of Scandinavian settlers cut off from civilisation for centuries seemed to offer explorers the chance literally to ‘meet the ancestors'. But in the end, as Robert Rix's impressive scholarship demonstrates, it is a story of empire, racism and greed.'

Heather O'Donoghue - University of Oxford

‘In The Vanished Settlers of Greenland, Robert Rix guides us expertly through the enduring and extensive cultural legacy of a lost Norse colony, ably crossing unfamiliar scholarly terrain whilst discovering links to canonical writers like Poe and Doyle along the way. With a chronological scope stretching from the tenth to the twentieth century, and discussion of a rich array of historical and critical sources, this lucid and informative book is not only an important contribution to knowledge in a variety of fields but also a fascinating and compelling read in its own right.'

Cian Duffy - Lund University

‘The Vanished Settlers of Greenland presents the captivating tale, spanning several centuries, of how 'Greenland' became a conceptual and an imaginative space, a blend of fact and fiction, a construction of European and US-American imperial imagination. Meticulously researched and laid out with expert clarity, it reveals that at the core of all attempts to take possession of and subject the real Greenland lies that most intransigent phantasm: the master trope of the fabled lost Eastern Settlement. Rix's magisterial study is a gripping read, a benchmark publication.'

Christoph Bode - Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich

‘In The Vanished Settlers of Greenland, Robert Rix deftly moves between a diverse range of sources – medieval Norse texts to romantic-imperialist poetry, pseudo-scientific writing to dime store novels – to tell the story of Greenland, not as it was, but what it was imagined to be by outsiders. Brimming with illuminating case studies, this timely and compelling study of a place alternately seen as dangerous or a land of plenty ripe for exploitation is crucial for understanding the long-standing fascination that Greenland has held in Anglo-American and Scandinavian culture.'

Jóhanna Katrín Friðriksdóttir

‘A masterful analysis of the mythography of ‘Lost Greenland' and its settler colonialism, Robert Rix's beautifully told account unlocks the Arctic's oldest tragedy and the death of early Christendom in the far north, exploring its pervasive and consequential mythology.'

Michael Bravo - University of Cambridge


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