Dr Keith Ruiter

Senior Lecturer in History

School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Keith Ruiter ORCID
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Keith Ruiter is an interdisciplinary medievalist working at the intersection of history, law, archaeology, and literature. His research focuses on topics like legalism, normativity, punishment, and personhood in Viking-Age Scandinavia and its diaspora. He has a passion for using innovative and culturally comparative methods – including Indigenous Studies, Posthumanist, and Game Studies approaches – for researching and teaching the medieval world to foster richer and more inclusive dialogue about this period and its many connections. This has led to successful projects and collaborations with a range of academic, community, industry, and government partners. He is currently working on a monograph project which applies Indigenous Legal Studies approaches to the study of early Scandinavian law. He is happy to hear from prospective students with shared research interests.


Before coming to Suffolk, he has held a number of academic appointments, grants, and fellowships in Canada, England, Scotland, and Sweden. He holds degrees from the University of Alberta (BA, double major in English and Scandinavian Languages and Literatures), the University of York (MA with distinction in Medieval Studies), and the University of Aberdeen (PhD in Scandinavian Studies).

Keith teaches and supervises on an array of topics, regions, and periods. He likes to work with students to broadly cultivate methodological, critical, interdisciplinary, and comparative skills through creative engagement with the past and its peoples.

Current undergraduate teaching:

  • Year 1:
    • Migrations, Foundations, Invasions?: Britain and the Early Medieval World
    • Growing Pains from Medieval to Early-Modern: Society and Culture from the Normans to the Tudors
  • Year 2:
    • The Connected Viking Age
  • Year 3:
    • Viking Mindscapes?

Current postgraduate teaching:

  • Public History

Research Interests:

  • Viking-Age and medieval history and culture
  • Comparative and interdisciplinary approaches to law, legalism, self-regulation, normativity, transgression, and punishment
  • Personhood and identity in the past
  • Public and digital history, digital humanities, games, and gamification

Current Projects:

  • Monograph Project – Cold Cases, Warm Hearths: Indigenized Approaches to Law, Literature, and Life in the Viking Age and Beyond
  • Co-Investigator – Dödens landskap: Sedvanerätt i förändring i vikingatid och medeltid, an interdisciplinary investigation of the changing nature of customary law and execution between the Viking Age and the medieval period in Scandinavia. Funded by Berit Wallenbergs Stiftelse with partners at Uppsala University (Christine Ekholst, PI) and the University of Highlands and Island (Alexandra Sanmark, Co-I).


Currently working with a network of colleagues and community partners in the UK, Canada, Sápmi, Norway, and Sweden in developing a collaborative and comparative research project on the history of Indigenous and European customary legal traditions.


Selected publications (see ORCID ID: 0000-0002-2530-695X for full listing)

Peer-reviewed publications:

Evans-Tang, Harriet J. & Keith Ruiter. 2023. ‘The Roles of Horses in Viking Age Ritual Action’, in Magic and Materiality in the Viking World: The Völva in Myth and Mind, ed. by Leszek Gardeła, Sophie Bønding & Peter Pentz, Oxford: Oxbow Books.


Evans-Tang, Harriet J. & Keith Ruiter. 2023. ‘Exploring Animals as Agents and Objects in Early Medieval Scandinavia’, in Motifs through the Ages: Animals and Animated Objects in Past Societies, ed. by Leszek Gardeła & Kamil Kajkowski, Turnhout: Brepols.


Ruiter, Keith. 2021. ‘Legal Custom & Lex Castrensis?: Using Law and Literature to Navigate the North-Sea Neighbourhood in the Late Viking Age’, in Britain & its Neighbours: Cultural Contacts & Exchanges in Medieval & Early Modern Europe, ed. by Dirk H. Steinforth & Charlie Rozier, New York: Routledge, Routledge Themes in Medieval and Early Modern Histories, 105-120.


Ruiter, Keith. 2020. ‘Berserks Behaving Badly: Manipulating Normative Expectations in Eyrbyggja saga’, in Narrating Law and Laws of Narration in Medieval Scandinavia, ed. by Roland Scheel, Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter, Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde. Ergänzungsbände 117, 171-184.


Ruiter, Keith. 2019. ‘A Deviant Word Hoard: A Study of Non-Normative Terms in Early Medieval Scandinavia’, in Social Norms in Medieval Scandinavia, ed. by Jakub Morawiec, Aleksandra Jochymek, & Grzegorz Bartusik, Leeds: ARC Humanities Press, Beyond Medieval Europe, 201-212.


Ruiter, Keith & Steven P. Ashby. 2018. ‘Different Strokes: Judicial Violence in Viking-Age England and Scandinavia’, in Viking and Medieval Scandinavia 14, 153-184.


Kyriakou, Aristea, Jan Peter Loovers, Anette Moir, Eleanor Peers, & Keith Ruiter. 2018. ‘Sharing a Voice: Early-Career Scholars and the Arctic.’ in Education in the North 25.1, 181-185.


Ruiter, Keith. 2014. ‘Visibility, Authority, and Execution in Heimskringla.’ in Illuminating the North: Proceedings from the Nordic Research Network Conference 2013, ed. Agnes Broomé and others, London: Norvik Press, 119-132.


Book Reviews:

Ruiter, Keith. 2021. ‘Review of Alexandra Sanmark, Viking Law and Order’, Apardjón Journal for Scandinavian Studies, vol. 2, 77-79.


Ruiter, Keith. 2021. ‘Review of Marianne Hem Eriksen, Architecture, Society, and Ritual in Viking Age Scandinavia: Doors, Dwellings, and Domestic Space’, Early Medieval Europe, vol. 29.2, 258-260.


Ruiter, Keith. 2019. ‘Review of Daniela Hahn & Andreas Schmidt, eds, Bad Boys and Wicked Women: Antagonists and Troublemakers in Old Norse Literature’, Saga-Book 43, 188-190.

Public History Publications and Projects:

Ruiter, Keith & Harriet Evans Tang. 2023. ‘Shared horse and human burials show how deeply the vikings cared for their animal companions’, The Conversation UK, August 2, 2023, https://theconversation.com/shared-horse-and-human-burials-show-how-deeply-the-vikings-cared-for-their-animal-companions-209185.


Contributor: ‘Suffolk Stories Project’, 2023-present.

  • Collaborative, co-creative project headed by Prof Sara De Freitas creating gamified heritage trails in Ipswich and beyond. Phase 1 focuses on the life and times of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey.


Ruiter, Keith. 2020. ‘Linking Law: Viking and Medieval Scandinavian Law in Literature and History’, The Historian, 8-12, https://www.history.org.uk/publications/resource/9739/linking-law-viking-and-medieval-scandinavian-law.


Ruiter, Keith. ‘In Defence of the Vikings: they wouldn’t have suffered Donald Trump’ on The Conversation UK, March 30, 2017, https://theconversation.com/in-defence-of-the-vikings-they-wouldnt-have-suffered-donald-trump-71185.


Ruiter, Keith. ‘Ragnar Shaggy-Trousers and Eystein Foul-Fart: the truth behind Viking names’ on The Conversation UK, February 18, 2016, http://theconversation.com/ragnar-shaggy-trousers-and-eystein-foul-fart-the-truth-behind-viking-names-53256.


Intern: Richard III, Rumour and Reality (https://richardiii-ipup.org.uk/), 2013.


Project team-member: Walmgate Stray: Common Ground Project (https://www.york.ac.uk/hrc/research/impact/common-ground/), 2012-2014.


Invited Talks:

Ruiter, Keith. ‘From Outlaws and Transgression to Oaths and Treaties: Navigating the Legal Viking Age’ at the 2020 Midlands Viking Symposium, University of Birmingham, 24 September 2022 (delayed due to covid). Public lecture.


Ruiter, Keith. ‘Comparative Approaches to Early Scandinavian Customary Law’ at the Centre for the Study of the Viking Age Norse and Viking Seminar Series, University of Nottingham, 26 March 2021. Seminar presentation.


Ruiter, Keith. ‘Eddic Heroism: Paragons, Pariahs, or Plurality?’ at the Scandinavian Studies Seminar Series, University of Aberdeen, 9 October 2018. Seminar presentation.


Ruiter, Keith. ‘'Innangarðs and Útangarðs' or 'Fifty Shades of Grey?' Exploring Normativity and Deviance in Early Medieval Scandinavia’ at the Viking Studies Research Group Seminar Series, University of York, 3 November 2017. Seminar presentation.


Ruiter, Keith. ‘Berserks Behaving Badly: Manipulating Normativity in Eyrbyggja saga’ at the Narrating Laws and Laws of Narration in Medieval Scandinavia workshop, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, 24 March 2017. Workshop presentation.



Ruiter, Keith. ‘Trees Holding Hands: Customary Law, Comparative History, and Polyjuridical Futures’, at the Together for Transformation conference, University of Suffolk, 24 May 2023.


Ruiter, Keith. ‘What do Windigos have to do with Vikings?’, at Colonial Entanglements and the Nordic Medieval World: Tensions, Nordic Colonialism and Indigeneity, Universität Greifswald, 2 February 2023.


Ruiter, Keith. ‘What do Windigos have to do with Vikings? Seeing Early Scandinavian Legalism with Two Eyes’, at the Society for the Advancement for Scandinavian Studies Annual Meeting, Puerto Rico, 28 April 2022.


Coding Medieval Worlds 2: Networks and Connections, workshop participant, 19-20 February, 2022.


Ruiter, Keith & Alex J. Wilson. ‘Drawing the Line: Defining Social Boundaries in Viking and Old Norse Studies’ at Rethinking Social Boundaries in the 'Viking Diaspora' Workshop, Université de Montréal, 16 February 2022.


Ruiter, Keith. ‘All in the Family: Generosity and Avarice in Eyrbyggja saga’ at Generosity and Avarice in Medieval Europe, University of Nottingham, 5 March 2021.


Ruiter, Keith. ‘Judicial Violence and Social Negotiation in the Viking Age’ at Weaving War: New Perspectives on Violence and Society in the Viking Age, University of Oslo, 13 December 2018.


Ruiter, Keith. ‘Pondering Pariahs: A Comparison of Gísli and Grettir from the Perspective of Normativity and Deviance’ at the 17th International Saga Conference, University of Iceland, 14 August 2018.


Ruiter, Keith. ‘A Performance of Forgetting: Exploring Legal Stigmas in Medieval Scandinavia’ at The Leeds International Medieval Congress 2018, University of Leeds, 4 July 2018.


Ruiter, Keith. ‘Agreeing to Disagree: Exploring the Violent Power of Language in Early Scandinavian Disputes’ at Voices of Law: Law and Legal Agreements 600-1200, Cambridge University, 12 January 2018.


Evans, Harriet J. & Ruiter, Keith. ‘Animalistic Ambiguity: Exploring Animals as Agents and Objects in Early Medieval Scandinavia’ at the 3rd International Interdisciplinary Meetings ‘Motifs through the Ages’ Conference, West-Cassubian Museum in Bytów, Poland, 17 December 2017.


Ruiter, Keith. ‘Fifty Shades of Grey? Nuancing Concepts of Normativity and Deviance in Early Medieval Scandinavia’ at the Inaugural NECRON Conference, University of Copenhagen, 21-22 October 2017 (Poster).


Ruiter, Keith. ‘A New Perspective on Old Swedish Biltogh’ at the Society for East Norse Philology Conference 2017, University of Copenhagen, 20 October 2017.


Ruiter, Keith. ‘Berserks and Bad Behaviour: Investigating Deviance and Normativity in Eyrbyggja saga’ at The Leeds International Medieval Congress 2017, University of Leeds, 4 July 2017.


Ruiter, Keith. ‘Exploring Normativity and Deviance in Early Medieval Scandinavia’ at Kungl. Gustav Adolfs Akadamien Student Symposium 2017, Royal Gustavus Adolfus Academy, 9 June 2017.


Ruiter, Keith. ‘A Deviant Word Hoard: A Semantic Study of Non-Normative Terms in Early Medieval Scandinavia’ at The 1st Jómsborg Conference: Defining and Applying Social Norms in Medieval Scandinavia, University of Silesia in Katowice, 21 April 2017.


Ruiter, Keith. ‘Living Beyond the Law: Some Semantic and Conceptual Considerations of Outlawry in Medieval Scandinavia’ at 2017 Edinburgh Postgraduate Law Conference, University of Edinburgh, 20 January 2017.


Ruiter, Keith & Steve Ashby. ‘Judicial Violence in the Viking Age: A Rewarding Study of Punishment’ at The Viking World: Diversity and Change, University of Nottingham, 28 June 2016.


Ruiter, Keith. ‘Visibility, Authority, and Execution in Heimskringla’ at third annual Nordic Research Network Conference, University College London, 6 September 2013.

Selected Organizational and Service Experience:

April 2022: Panel chair for the “Nordic Mélange” panel at the Society for the Advancement for Scandinavian Studies Annual Meeting.


August 2020: Peer-reviewer for the open access Scandia: Journal for Medieval Norse Studies.


February 2020: Peer-reviewer for Routledge book proposal on public and popular historical approaches to the Viking Age and its reception.


January 2020: Viva Chair for the University of Nottingham School of English.


August 2019-July 2020: Director of the University of Nottingham’s Centre for the Study of the Viking Age (CSVA).


August 2019-July 2020: Academic Lead for the University of Nottingham’s ‘Vikings for Schools’ public outreach program.


July 2019-February 2022: Co-organizer (with Dr Alex J. Wilson, Tübingen) of the Rethinking Social Boundaries in the 'Viking Diaspora' Workshop, Université de Montréal, 16-17 February 2022.


February 2019: Peer-reviewer for the open access Apardjón Journal for Scandinavian Studies.


September 2018-May 2019: Co-organizer (with Dr Christine Ekholst (Uppsala) and Dr Sean Lawing (Bryn Athyn)) of the ‘Normativity and Transgression in Medieval Scandinavia’ stream for the 2019 annual meeting of the Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Studies (Madison, Wisconsin)


August 2017: UArctic Student Forum Tutor: Part of a team responsible for leading and mentoring a diverse group of students from University of the Arctic member institutions in drafting a resolution on current issues in interdisciplinary circumpolar research.


January 2016-Spring 2018: Organizing Committee Co-Chair: 2017 Nordic Research Network Conference, University of Aberdeen.


Media Coverage of Research:

Lammers-Clark, Stephanie (trans.) ‘Fælles heste- og menneskebegravelser afslører, hvor meget vikingerne holdt af deres dyr’ on Videnskab.dk, 5 September 2023, https://videnskab.dk/kultur-samfund/faelles-heste-og-menneskebegravelser-afsloerer-hvor-meget-vikingerne-holdt-af-deres-dyr/.


Lugosi, Péter (trans.) ‘Aki sértegetett egy vikinget, az életével fizethetett’ on National Geographic Magyarország, 30 August 2016, http://www.ng.hu/Civilizacio/2016/08/29/Aki-sertegetett-egy-vikinget-az-eletevel-fizethetett.


Nurse, Ingrid P. (trans.) ‘Twas Dangerous to Insult a Viking’ on Science Nordic, 19 August 2016, http://sciencenordic.com/%E2%80%99twas-dangerous-insult-viking?utm_content=buffera8e65&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer.


Lammers-Clark, Stephanie. (trans.) ‘Vikingerne tålte ikke fornærmelser’ on Videnskab.dk, 28 July 2016, http://videnskab.dk/kultur-samfund/vikingerne-taalte-ikke-fornaermelser.


Biørnstad, Lasse. ‘Vikingene tålte ikke fornærmelser’ on Forskning.no, 21 July 2016,



Research Funding:

  • Co-Investigator – Dödens landskap: Sedvanerätt i förändring i vikingatid och medeltid – A Landscape of Death: Changes in Customary Law in Viking and Medieval Scandinavia (Berit Wallenbergs Stiftelse Larger Project Grant, ref: BWS 2022:0040) – 2023-2025
  • Principle Applicant – Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Postdoctoral Fellowship (ref: 756-2021-0499) – 2021-2023
  • Principle Applicant – Wallace Johnson Program for First Book Authors Fellowship, Medieval Institute, Western Michigan University – 2021-2022
  • Principle Applicant – Elphinstone Scholarship, University of Aberdeen – 2015-2018
  • Smaller grants from the Viking Congress, Erasmus + Traineeship scheme, Svenska Institutet, Gustav Adolfs Akadamien, Viking Society for Northern Research, Voices of Law project, the University of Aberdeen, the University of York, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen Scandinavisches Seminar the University of Nottingham, and UCL.


Keith has worked as a consultant and collaborator in a range of initiatives focused on fostering public knowledge, empathy, and ownership of the past and its narratives. As an expert on the Viking Age, he has contributed to media work on podcasts, three television productions (consulting for companies like Go Button Media and Wildflame Productions), an educational game, and a feature film currently in development. He has also collaborated on a resolution at the UArctic Rectors Forum on current issues in interdisciplinary circumpolar research which informed an address from the Scottish delegation to the Arctic Council, and a wide array of public engagement projects and events including partnerships with local schools, councils, festivals, and trusts.

Having a private-sector background in project management, operations, and logistics, Keith enjoys building relationships and collaborating with community partners in both the private- and public-sectors on projects that reduce barriers to public education about the past and its connections with and implications on the present.

  • Higher Education Academy - Associate Fellow

  • Association for the Advancement of Scandinavian Studies in Canada - Member

  • Canadian Society of Medievalists - Member

  • Viking Society for Northern Research – Member

  • Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Studies – Member

  • Sällskap för östnordisk filologi - Member