Institut for Statskundskab

Two bandits or more? The case of Viking Age England

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The Olsonian distinction between roving and stationary bandits outlines the rationale behind the transition from anarchy to the emergence of the predatory state. This two-bandit model may, however, be expanded to include more bandit types. In the case of Viking Age England, local English kings were unable to monopolize violence and defend their realms against competing Viking raiders. As the Vikings’ time horizon grew, so did the accumulated value of more formal taxation, and bandit types evolved in four steps. The first step is the Olsonian roving bandit, who executed Viking hit-and-run attacks and plunders during the second half of the tenth century. The second step is the gafol bandit; gafol is payment for leaving, paid to, among others, Swein Forkbeard. The third step is the heregeld bandit; heregeld is a tax to support an army for hire; most notably Thorkell the Tall’s. The fourth step is the Olsonian stationary bandit, i.e. the strongest military leader among the Vikings, Chut the Great, settled down as the new king. Overall, the Olsonian two-bandit model can be expanded to a four-bandit staircase model, in which the new gafol and heregeld bandit types explain the three steps from anarchy and short-run raiding to long-run formal taxation in a predatory state.

TidsskriftPublic Choice
Sider (fra-til)443-457
Antal sider15
StatusUdgivet - 1 mar. 2020

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