Matthew Townend

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Matthew Townend’s research interests are in the language, literature, and history of Viking Age England; Old Norse poetry; and late Anglo-Saxon literary culture. He is also interested in Anglo-Saxon and Norse medievalism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and the relationship between philology and literature.

He is the author of English Place-Names in Skaldic Verse (English Place-Name Society, 1998), Language and History in Viking Age England (Brepols, 2002), The Vikings and Victorian Lakeland: the Norse medievalism of W.G. Collingwood and his contemporaries (Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, 2009), and Viking Age Yorkshire (Blackthorn Press, 2014), and is also the editor of Wulfstan, Archbishop of York (Brepols, 2004).



My general interests are in Old Norse and Old English language and literature. In particular my research focuses on England and Scandinavia in the ninth to eleventh centuries: I am interested in the language, literature, and history of Viking Age England, Old Norse poetry, and late Anglo-Saxon literary culture. I have written two books on linguistic and literary contacts between the Anglo-Saxons and the Vikings, as well as a number of articles examining aspects of Old Norse culture in Viking Age England, and a more general book on the history and culture of Viking Age Yorkshire; I have also edited a collection of essays on Archbishop Wulfstan of York (1002-23). My work has endeavoured to show how late Anglo-Saxon England should really be thought of as Anglo-Scandinavian England, and has explored the multifarious relations between Norse and English language, literature, and culture.

I am also interested in the post-medieval reception of the Middle Ages, especially Anglo-Saxon and Norse medievalism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and the relationship between philology and literature. I have written a book about the author and artist W.G. Collingwood (1854-1932) and the study of the Vikings in the Lake District; other authors I am interested in include William Morris and J.R.R. Tolkien.


In addition to my book about Viking Age Yorkshire, I have recently finished editing the Old Norse poems in praise of King Cnut (early eleventh-century king of England, Denmark and Norway), as part of a major international project to re-edit the entire corpus of Old Norse skaldic verse (see I am continuing to work on Old Norse poetry, and am also working further on philologically-inspired medievalism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.


I am interested in supervising research in any area of Old Norse or late Anglo-Saxon studies, and also in nineteenth- and twentieth-century medievalism.  Current and past PhD topics supervised include: the representation of violence in Viking Age England; Viking Age colonialism; drinking culture in Old Norse; the relationship between law and literature in medieval Iceland; kinship in the Viking diaspora; 'shadow' language in Old English and Old Norse poetry; maps in medieval Iceland; the English language in medieval Scandanavia; the Folklore Society in the late nineteenth century; and twentieth-century alliterative poetry.

External activities


  • Hon. Secretary, Viking Society for Northern Research

photo by Ian Martindale

Contact details

Dr Matthew Townend
Department of English and Related Literature
University of York
Y010 5DD

Tel: 44 1904 323922
Fax: 44 1904 323918