The Lectures which are here presented to the public were delivered at Oxford in May, 1876, by invitation of the Curators of the Taylor Institution as administrators of the Ilchester Bequest for the encouragement of the study of the Slavonic Language, Literature, and History. Within the boundaries set by the terms of the endowment, it was natural to me to choose a subject which, at the same time as being Slavonic, had some reference to Scandinavia, and I could not long be in doubt as to the choice.
I give the Lectures here, in the main, so as I had at first written them, with such slight modifications and additions as, in revising my manuscript, I thought necessary. According to this plan I have not hesitated to insert several details of a philological kind which I was obliged to leave out or abridge when delivering the Lectures, but which are in fact so important to the purpose I had set myself that it seemed to me they could not well be omitted here; such will be found, for instance, in the inquiry into the names of the Dnieper rapids, the Old Russian proper names, the history of the name Varangian, &c.
I hope that the book may have gained by this, and I shall be glad if I have succeeded in contributing somewhat towards the final and impartial solution of a historic-ethnographical problem which may possibly have some interest also to English readers.
I beg to express my best thanks first and foremost to the Curators of the Taylor Institution, not only for their honourable invitation to lecture at Oxford, but also for their liberality in undertaking the printing of the Lectures at the cost of the endowment; next, to all those who have met me with kindness, as well with respect to the present work, as during my stay in England. Among them I must be allowed to offer my special thanks to one of the Curators, the Rev. G. W. Kitchin, who has also kindly assisted me in reading the proofs, an assistance all the more valuable in that it has been afforded to one who is writing in a foreign language.