About Erika Harlitz-Kern

Erika Harlitz-Kern is a historian and freelance writer with more than ten years of experience from teaching, writing, editing, and publishing. She is an Adjunct Instructor at the Department of History at Florida International University and has a Ph.D. in history from the University of Gothenburg. Dr. Harlitz-Kern has been published by The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, The Week, Ploughshares, Foreword Reviews, Book Riot, and Quirk Books. She has been featured on The Story of God with Morgan Freeman on the NatGeo Channel and on Counterpoint on ABC Australia.

The Great Man Theory and Historical Change in SFF

On November 18, 2019, I published the following article on Tor.com. This article is Part 2 in the series I am writing for them called History and SFF. I am really happy about this post because I have wanted to write about how Wesley Chu uses history in his Tao trilogy ever since I first read it. The fact that Chu tweeted that he was happy with this article makes it even better.

The Great Man Theory and Historical Change in SFF.

The Great Man Theory and Historical Change in SFF | Tordcotcom | The Boomerang

The question of what factors drive historical change has intrigued historians from the very beginning, when the earliest scholars first turned their attention to studying and interpreting the past. To find the answer(s) to this key question, historians make use of social science theories. These theories help make sense of the inherent contradictions found in human behavior and human society.

For example, there is the theory…

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In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

12 Surprising Facts about Viking Runestones

On October 24, 2019, I published the following post on Mental Floss.

12 Surprising Facts about Viking Runestones

12 Surprising Facts about Viking Runestones | Mental Floss

Runestone Sö 106. Source: Riksantikvarieämbetet/Swedish National Heritage Board.

Vikings. The word evokes ferocious warriors, swords, battleaxes, and bloodthirsty raids. Most of what we know about the Vikings, however, are exaggerations written by people who encountered them. There is a way for us to hear the Vikings speak for themselves: by reading messages carved on runestones…
In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

History and SFF Storytelling: A New Monthly Column

On October 15, 2019, Tor.com published the following post, announcing the launch of  the column I will be writing for them. I am really excited about this column. Not only because it’s about history and the historian’s craft, but because I have been wanting to work with Tor.com for a long time.


History and SFF Storytelling: A New Monthly Column.


Welcome to Tor.com’s new column on History and SFF!

My name is Erika Harlitz-Kern, and I will be your guide during the coming months in discussing the ways that history is used in fantasy and science fiction. But don’t worry—I won’t be dissecting your favorite story digging for historical inaccuracies and judging its entertainment value based on what I find… The purpose of this column is to take a look at how authors of SFF novels and novellas—with a focus on more recent works, published after the year 2000—use the tools of the trade of historians to tell their stories.

When any scholar does research, they use a set of discipline-specific tools to make…

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In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

The Myth of the Viking Warrior Woman

I’m back on The Week!

The Myth of the Viking Warrior Woman


In 2017, a team of Swedish archaeologists announced an exciting discovery: They had, for the first time, identified the remains of a Viking woman warrior. A DNA analysis of a Viking Age skeleton previously thought to be male had turned out to be female. The skeleton in question was originally discovered in 1878 in a grave known as Bj. 581 at the Swedish Viking Age trading town of Birka. Lacking the scientific knowledge available today to determine the biological sex of human remains, the 19th-century archaeologists looked at the objects buried with the skeleton — weapons like swords and spears, shields, and even the remains of several horses — and declared the human remains to have belonged to a male warrior. The modern DNA result proved this theory wrong.

The tale of the Viking woman warrior from Birka continues to capture our imaginations. She has even been….

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In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

I’m on The Daily Beast again again.

On August 17, 2019, I published my third article for The Daily Beast. This one I am particularly excited about because it allowed me to delve deeper into the complexities of Viking society. Enjoy!

What the Alt-Right Gets Wrong about the Vikings.

What the Alt Right Gets Wrong About the Vikings | The Daily Beast | The Boomerang

Reconstructed Viking Age longhouse, Borg, Lofoten, Norway.

Viking Age Scandinavians were immigrants who traded with the Muslim world and embraced gender fluidity—everything the alt-right despises.

If you want to read the article in its entirety, please click here.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

The Day that Obsessed Adolf Hitler.

I’m back on The Daily Beast. This time I am arguing in favor of why we need to pay attention to the Treaty of Versailles. Spoiler: It’s not all about Hitler.


The Day that Obsessed Adolf Hitler.

The Day that Obsessed Hitler | The Boomerang | The Daily Beast

The signing of the Treaty of Versailles.

This summer marked the centennial of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, on June 28, 1919. The treaty put a formal end to World War I, one of the deadliest military conflicts in history. Yet the anniversary went mostly unnoticed.

That’s a shame because the treaty’s contents, and the reaction that they caused, were essential to paving the way for the ascent of Adolf Hitler and the rise of fascism in Europe.

If you want to read the article in its entirety, please click here.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

What’s Silver, Purple, and Very Well-Traveled?

I’m on Atlas Obscura!

Atlas Obscura is a publication that features stories about the wondrous in the world. Places, objects, events, customs and traditions. Anything out of the ordinary that is connected to a particular place.

I have wanted to publish something with them for a long time, and now I finally have. So please enjoy my first-ever article for Atlas Obscura. It has everything. Goths, Roman emperors, abdicated queens, disgraced noblemen, and a book that went missing for 1,000 years.

What’s Silver, Purple, and Very-Well Traveled?

Codex Argenteus | Silver Bible

Codex Argenteus, or Silver Bible at Carolina Rediviva, Uppsala, Sweden. Photo: Erika Harlitz-Kern.

Tucked into a far corner of the annex to the Carolina Rediviva, the main library at Sweden’s Uppsala University, a book sits alone behind bulletproof glass. You might think its remote placement indicates its minor significance. But look closer and you’ll see a work of visual splendor—a uniform script in silver and gold ink, written on purple parchment, as bright and vibrant as if it were brand new.

This is the Codex Argenteus, or Silver Bible. Created more than 1,500 years ago in northern Italy, it was commissioned by the ruler of a people long since vanished. But their lost language is preserved on the pages of the book before you.

Fittingly, the story of how this bible ended up on display at a Swedish university is as mysterious as the book is beautiful.

If you wish to read the entire article, please click here.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.