Abstract: The lið, a retinue of warriors sworn to a leader, has long been considered one of the basic armed groups of the Viking Age. However, in recent years the study of lið has been eclipsed by the discussion of larger Viking armies. In this paper, we focus on the key question of how loyalty to the lið was achieved. We argue that two processes that have been intensively studied by psychologists and anthropologists – ingroup identification and identity fusion – would have been important in the formation and operation of lið. In support of this hypothesis, we outline archaeological, historical and literary evidence pertaining to material and psychological identities. The construction of such identities, we contend, would have facilitated the formation of cohesive fighting groups and contributed to their success while operating in the field.
We would like to thank Melissa McDonald for her insights on ingroup identification, and to Laura Whitehouse for commenting on drafts of this paper. We are also grateful for the feedback and suggestions of two anonymous reviewers. Ben Raffield, Claire Greenlow and Mark Collard are supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada through the Partnership Grant that supports the Cultural Evolution of Religion Research Consortium (895-2011-1009). Mark Collard is also supported by the Canada Research Chairs Program, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the British Columbia Knowledge Development Fund, and Simon Fraser University. Neil Price is supported by the Royal Gustav Adolf Academy, Sweden.
- group cohesion
- identity fusion
- Viking Age
- war band