Alan Macniven

Head of Scandinavian Studies

  • Scandinavian Studies
  • Department of European Languages and Cultures
  • School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures

Contact details



Room 3.09
50 George Square

Post code


  • If there’s anything you’d like to discuss, you’re welcome to come along to my regular, drop-in ‘Office Hour’ on Tuesdays from 2–3 pm, in 50 George Square, Rm. 3.09. Otherwise, please knock on my office door and come in to check when I’m available, or e-mail me to make an appointment on


Born and raised in SW Stirlingshire, Alan's life journey has followed a winding path. During his formative years in Glasgow, he developed an enduring fascination for Scandinavian culture and language - first modern then medieval. After pursuing these interests at the University of Edinburgh, he spent time living, studying and working in Sweden and Iceland, before relocating to England. By 2008, Alan had acquired a range of qualifications, including an MA (Hons), an MSc (R) - funded by SAAS, a PhD - funded by the Carnegie Trust, a PGCE, and later a PGCUT, at which point he returned to Edinburgh to take up a position as lecturer in the department of Scandinavian Studies.

In additional to his teaching, pastoral, and research activities, Dr Macniven has held a number of adminsitrative roles, including those of Convenenor, and Deputy Convener of the MEL Honours Exam Board for DELC, and School Representative on the College Library & IS Committee for LLC. As Head of the DELC Teaching Organisation, he was responsible for compiling the Analytical Report for DELC's periodical Teaching Programme Review in 2017.

As Head of Scandinavian Studies since 2016, Dr Macniven has striven to build links between the department, Scotland and Norden – ‘The North’. In recent years, Alan has given talks to the Scottish Parliament’s Cross-Party Group on the Nordic Area, official delegations from the Nordic Council, and The Swedish Institute, as well as groups of visiting gymnasium pupils from Sweden and Denmark. He has also produced outreach materials and given talks for museums, community groups and schoolchildren in Edinburgh, Perth, Fife, and Islay, including the National Museum of Scotland, the BBC, and ZDF in Germany.

At Edinburgh, Alan has taken a leading role in organising collaborative events with Samarbetsnämnden för Nordenundervisning i Utlandet (SNU), involving both academics and cultural practitioners, for negotiating the University of Edinburgh’s membership of UArctic, in the project relocating the Edinburgh Runestone to its new home in George Square, and in framing Memorandums of Understanding and Agreement with the University of Lund in Sweden for a joint PGT initiative.

In his spare time, Alan sits on the committees of the Scottish Society for Northern Studies, where he is Vice-President, the Scottish Place-Name Society, of which he is currently convener, and the University of Edinburgh’s Nothern Scholars Scheme, which he also convenes. He is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, the Higher Education Academy, one of the two Scotland representatives on the Viking Congress, and a Trustee of the Finlaggan Trust in Islay.


  • MA, MSc, PhD (Edinburgh)
  • PGCE (Cumbria)
  • PGCUT (Edinburgh)

Responsibilities & affiliations

  • Fellow, Higher Education Academy
  • Convener, Scottish Place-Name Society
  • Vice President, Scottish Society for Northern Studies
  • Representative for Scotland, Viking Congress
  • Trustee, Finlaggan Trust
  • Fellow, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland
  • Member, Cross Party Group on the Nordic Countries

Administrative roles

  • Head of Scandinavian Studies
  • Convener of the Northern Scholars' Scheme
  • DELC: Scandinavian Studies, Year Abroad Coordinator
  • DELC: Scandinavian Studies, Library Officer
  • Personal Tutor

Undergraduate teaching

1st & 2nd Year

  • Scandinavian Literature 2 (Course Organiser)
  • Scandinavian Civilisation A (Course Organiser)
  • Scandinavian Civilisation B (Course Organiser)


  • History of the Scandinavian Novel
  • Scandinavian Place-Name Studies
  • Old Norse Literature & Society (Course Organiser)
  • Viking Studies (Course Organiser)

Postgraduate teaching

  • Viking Studies (Course Organiser)
  • Old Norse Literature & Society (Course Organiser)
  • The Material Culture of Anglo-Saxon, Norse & Celtic Scotland (Course Organiser)

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Areas of interest for supervision

Dr Macniven is very happy to consider proposals for PhD and MSc (R) projects on all aspects of the Viking Age, especially those with a multi-disciplinary focus, or an emphasis on place-names or Scotland. He would also welcome proposals for research projects on more modern developments in Scandinavian, and particularly Swedish, literature, language and culture.

Current PhD students supervised

Anthony Jay Olsson (PhD), Heroic journeys to Lochlann and Bretland as tropes: What are the joint motifs and intercultural connections between the fantastic exploits of Faroese and Irish/Scots Gaelic balladry? 

Jess Nutt (PhD), An inter-disciplinary investigation into the Viking’s presence in Early Medieval Wales using evidence of conflict.

Lynn Schoenbeck (PhD), Bog bodies, and their place in Danish national identity.

Past PhD students supervised

Dr Daniel Haycraft (2022): Famine, Fever, Flood, and Conquest: The Impact of Natural Disasters on the Ninth-Century Rise of the Vikings in the Carolingian Empire According to the Royal Frankish Annals, the Annals of Xanten, the Annals of St Bertin, and The Annals of Fulda.

Dr Ryan Foster (2018): Norse Shielings in Scotland: An interdisciplinary study of setr/sætr and ærgi-names.

Dr Christian Cooijmans (2018): Of Monarchs and Hydrarchs: A Conceptual Development Model for Viking Activity across the Frankish Realm (c. 750-940 CE).

Dr Ian Giles (2018): Tracing the Transmission of Scandinavian Literature to the UK: 1917-2017.

Dr Katarzyna Aleksiejuk (2016): Names on the Internet: Towards Electronic Socio-onomastics.

Dr Dominic Hinde (2015): Our shared future: The rhetorics of modern Swedish environmentalism.

Dr Ersev Ersoy (2012): Social reality and mythic worlds: reflections on folk belief and the supernatural in James Macpherson's Ossian and Elias Lönnrot's Kalevala.

MSc by Research

Elizabeth Bradbury (2018): Hel and Hekate: The Feminization of Death in the Norse and Greek Mythoi.

Eric Cain (2012): Insecurity in the Unresolved: The Game of Literature Experience and [Un]resolution in Swedish Crime and Horror Fiction of Mankell’s Mördare mot ansikte, Lindqvist’s Låt den rätta komma in, and Roman’s Mörkrädd.

Marilyn Amedro (2011): Reflections on the Instability of Place and Identity in the first two novels of William Heinesen.               

Dominic Hinde (2011): A perceived utopia?: Four narratives on the environment in Sweden.

Research summary

Alan's current research focuses on cultural interaction, principally between Norse and native in western maritime Scotland during the Viking Age. Although dogmatically interdisciplinary, the main source material for this work comes from the names of places and associated settlement studies. Specific interests include: immigrant naming practices in fully occupied and named landscapes; the nature and extent of cultural transitions at the beginning and end of Scotland’s Viking Age; and the evidence for Viking Age military infrastructure in Scotland. Alan's recent monograph, 'The Vikings in Islay' (2015, John Donald) has been shortlisted for the Saltire Society's 'Research Book of the Year' award.

Project activity

ÌLE: Islay Life Explorer

Alan curates the ÌLE - The 'Islay Life Explorer' Project, which collates and presents a wealth of thematically layered data on the Hebridean island of Islay free of charge for personal use.

View all 18 publications on Research Explorer