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Erik Wolf

Erik Wolf is a PhD researcher in the project “Mission Before Colonisation: A Reassessment of Religious Contact in Greenland and Sápmi, 1000-1550” at the Chair of Nordic History in Greifswald. There, he is investigating the written sources of interaction between Norse and groups like Saami and Inuit. Before, he studied History and German at the universities of Greifswald and Stockholm. His research interests are medieval forms of marginalisation, historical semantics and premodern concepts of ethnicity.

University of Greifswald

Department of History
Chair of Nordic History
Domstr. 9 A, room 0.13
17489 Greifswald

+49 3834 420 3337

Profile at the Chair for Nordic History

Written Traces of Contact in Medieval Greenland and Sápmi (1000-1550)

Medieval Greenland and the north of Fennoscandia (Sápmi) share a very interesting feature, namely the existence of people who, at least partly, did not become Christians until after the reformation. This is the case even though Christians lived in rather close proximity. Therefore, my research focuses on two main questions: How did the coexistence of Christian and non-Christian groups, namely Saami and Proto-Inuit, look like in the Middle Ages? How where non-Christians perceived, and what influence did these views have on the interaction between them and Christians?

In order to answer these questions, I am looking at all the written sources from the period of 1000 to 1550 that mention Saami or Inuit and try to find out what perceptions the authors had of these groups and why they might have had them. Furthermore, I am evaluating what influence these perceptions might have had on the interaction between the groups. Unfortunately, it is not possible to trace what perceptions Saami and Inuit had of the Christian populations, because neither group had written anything down at the time. Nevertheless, the sources written about them also provide information about how they interacted with Christians, whether they themselves were interested in Christianity, and what role they played in the economy of the northern kingdoms.

Including the broadest available corpus of sources not only prevents from overemphasizing the importance of singular sources, but also offers glimpses into changes, continuities, and disruptions over the course of 550 years. This is especially important as the colonial exploitation that has been clearly visible since the early modern period – another feature both regions share – likely did not occur out of a vacuum, but at the same time has not been an eternal continuity of the regions either.

  • “Die mittelalterliche Konversion der Saami in der diplomatischen Überlieferung,” Medieval History Seminar, German Historical Institute London and Washington, D.C., London, October 5-7, 2023.
  • “Neglected Entanglements: A Reassessment of the Saami-Norse Dichotomy in Medieval Fennoscandia,” International Congress on the Study of the Middle Ages, Leeds, July 3-6, 2023.
  • “Wundervölker im hohen Norden: Körperlichkeit und Geschlecht in der Historia Norwegie,” Hundsköpfige, Hermaphroditen und Städte aus Gold: Körper, Geschlecht und Materialität in vormodernen Reiseberichten und Länderbeschreibungen, Mainz, March 30 – April 1, 2023.
  • Participation in the Summer School in Manuscript Studies (basic level) of the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies, Reykjavík, August 15-25, 2022.
  • “The Screlinga in the Historia Norwegie and Their Bodily Otherness,” 30th Nordiska historikermötet, Gothenburg, August 8-11, 2022.
  • “Contacts at the Borders of the Known World: Interactions Between the Norse and Natives in Greenland and Vínland,” 15th Annual Aarhus Student Symposium on Viking and Medieval Scandinavian Subjects, Aarhus [online], April 28-29, 2022.
  • “‘Post-Pandemic Studying and Student Mobility’ – A transnational student conference on the impact of COVID-19 on academic teaching and learning in four countries” (together with Vitali Byl, Tim Senkbeil, and Gina Gransee), Online-Symposium Internationale Lehre, Braunschweig [online], November 18-19, 2021.

University studies and degrees

  • Since 2022
  • Doctoral Researcher in the DFG-funded project “Mission Before Colonisation: A Reassessment of Religious Contact in Greenland and Sápmi, 1000-1550”, University of Greifswald.
  • 2015-2022
  • Erstes Staatsexamen (First State Examination) in History and German at the universities of Greifswald and Stockholm.

Professional background

  • 2019-2021
  • Student Assistant at the Chair of Nordic History, University of Greifswald.
  • 2018-2020
  • Tutor at the Department of German Philology, University of Greifswald.
  • 2017-2020
  • Student Assistant at the University Computer Centre, University of Greifswald.


  • Summer 2023
  • Teaching Instructor, Summer School “Antisemitism and Xenophobia in the Baltic Sea Region”, Chair of Nordic History, Department of History, University of Greifswald, August 20-27, 2023.
  • Winter 2022/23
  • Teaching Instructor, Seminar “Schweden und Finnland in Mittelalter und Früher Neuzeit”, Chair of Nordic History, Department of History, University of Greifswald.
  • 2020
  • Intern at Montessorischule Greifswald.
  • 2018-2020
  • Tutor for Medieval German Language and Literature, Department of German Philology, University of Greifswald.