A NEW character in the popular TV series Vikings has been inspired by an Oxford University historian’s research.

Michael Hirst, creator of Vikings, read The Silk Roads by Dr Peter Frankopan, Director of the Oxford Centre for Byzantine Research at the university.

He was inspired by the book to create a new character called Astrid, who will appear in the fifth series of the History channel popular in the USA and Canada.

Dr Frankopan said: "There is nothing more exciting as a historian to know that things you’ve written are being read far and wide – and completely thrilling when they have are brought in to mainstream media."

In bestseller The Silk Roads: A New History of the World, Dr Frankopan showed the importance of the east and the role it had in shaping modern Europe.

Dr Frankopan added: "It is rather wonderful that Astrid, the new character who has been introduced in part thanks to Silk Roads, is going to show off some of the main themes of my book: the way the world is connected; the extent of cultural and commercial exchange across the spine of Asia; the sophistication of the east – and the role it had in shaping Europe.

"I think it’s terrific that TV series like Vikings work so hard to be accurate."

Mr Hirst, who created the TV series, said: "I’ve read this great book, called The Silk Roads, which was showing that in the Dark Ages, it might have been the Dark Ages to the western culture, but to the east, there was trade, cultural exchange.

"The Vikings were on Silk Road, so a character like Astrid, who appears to be slightly more modern? She is more modern."

Vikings is shown on Amazon and was renewed for a fifth series in March.