Book Review: A History of the Vandals


by Torsten Cumberland Jacobsen

Yardley, Pa.: Westholme Publishing, 2012. Pp. xiv, 360. Illus., maps, appends., notes, biblio., index. $29.95. ISBN: 1594161593

A History of the Vandals is the first overview of this interesting “Barbarian” people in more than 50 years, and also the first ever in English.

Danish historian Jacobsen, who earlier wrote the well-received The Gothic War, opens with a look at the earliest history of the Vandals.  He traces them from  obscure beginnings in the first century through the fourth, as they rose to some prominence north of the Danube, while becoming Arian Christians and acquiring more than a veneer of “civilization.”  Increasingly pressured by the Goths and Huns in their rear, in the fifth century the Vandals began to look covetously at more settled lands of the Romans to their front.  Jacobsen devotes a chapter to follow the movements of the Vandals westwards into Gaul, another to their invasion of Spain, and two to their conquest of North Africa from the Romans and their relations with the Moors.  There follow a chapter on the Vandal invasion of Italy and the “Sack” of the Eternal City in AD 455 and one on the history of the kingdom from the mid-fifth into the sixth century.  The come several chapters covering the collapse of the kingdom before a resurgent East Roman Empire in AD 533, and the final fate of the Vandal people.  In telling this story, Jacobsen gives us profiles of quite a number of people, mostly rulers (Genseric, Justinian) and warriors (Boniface, Belisarius), but also some others, including a few women (e.g., Princess Eudocia) and uses quite a large number of maps, both of which which help make for a more interesting and informative account.

This is a well-written work, integrating cultural, political, and military events, and will be rewarding reading for anyone interested in Late Antiquity.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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