Bernard Walsh for History Channel
A new character in the popular TV series Vikings has been inspired by an Oxford University historian’s research.
Michael Hirst, creator of Vikings, read The Silk Roads by Dr Peter Frankopan, Director of the Oxford Centre for Byzantine Research at the University of Oxford. He was inspired by the book to create a new character called Astrid, who will appear in the fifth series of the drama which is watched by millions in the USA and Canada.
‘Talk about academic impact!’, says Dr Frankopan. ‘There is nothing more exciting as a historian to know that things you’ve written are being read far and wide – and completely thrilling when they have are brought in to mainstream media.’
In The Silk Roads: A New History of the World, Dr Frankopan showed the importance of the east and the role it had in shaping modern Europe. It was a bestselling book, praised for shifting the centre of world history to the east.
He says: ‘It is rather wonderful that Astrid, the new character who has been introduced in part thanks to Silk Roads, is going to show off some of the main themes of my book: the way the world is connected; the extent of cultural and commercial exchange across the spine of Asia; the sophistication of the east – and the role it had in shaping Europe.
‘What used to be called ‘The Dark Ages’ in the west were nothing of the sort elsewhere. I’m so excited Michael Hirst is going to incorporate this.’
‘I think it’s terrific that TV series like Vikings work so hard to be accurate,’ he says. ‘I’ve been contacted in the past by those involved in the series to ensure that lines in Arabic and Berber are correct, so I am not surprised that those behind the show are on top of the latest scholarship in the field.’
Mr Hirst, who created the TV series, said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly: ‘I’ve read this great book, called “The Silk Road,” which was showing that in the Dark Ages, it might have been the Dark Ages to the western culture, but to the east, there was trade, cultural exchange. The Vikings were on Silk Road. So a character like Astrid, who appears to be slightly more modern? She is more modern.’
Vikings is screened by the HISTORY channel and it was renewed for a fifth series in March.
The Silk Roads is published by Bloomsbury Publishing.