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Christian Kings & Viking Armies, c.850-900 - HIS00014C

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Guy Halsall
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: C
  • Academic year of delivery: 2018-19

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2018-19

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To give an intensive introduction to an unfamiliar period and/or approach to the study of history;
  • To offer experience in the use of primary source materials;
  • To develop skills in analysing historiography; and
  • To develop core skills such as: bibliographical search techniques; source analysis; essay writing; giving presentations; and, undertaking independent research.

Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will:

  • Acquire an insight into historical study of an unfamiliar period and/or approach to the study of history through intensive study of an aspect of the period and/or an approach to it;
  • Gain experience of analysing primary source materials;
  • Be able to evaluate an historical explanation;
  • Have practiced core skills identified in the Autumn Term Making Histories module, including historical analysis, note-taking, essay writing, presenting to groups, and leading discussions in seminars: and,
  • Have delivered advanced level historical work in essays, demonstrating a thorough understanding of the module topics.

Module content

The appearance of Viking raiders in the last decades of the eighth century had been shocking enough. From the middle of the ninth century things got much worse.  Instead of small bands of raiders looting coastal monasteries, large agglomerations of warriors began to appear. Soon, as if this wasn't bad enough, these 'Great Armies' stopped going back home at winter. Instead they set up camp and stayed in Christian territory all year round, fighting battles, killing kings, exacting tribute, sacking towns and generally behaving in a reprehensible manner.

This module is not concerned with the old question of whether the Viking have been misunderstood, of whether they were 'traders or raiders';  our Vikings are indisputably armed forces out for themselves. That does not mean that their motivations, aims and objectives are not open to serious debate, however. In this module we shall look at how the Viking armies operated within the politics of the British Isles and the Frankish empire, and how the kings of those regions dealt with these large concentrations of youthful Scandinavian testosterone on the move. Finally we will examine what effect the Vikings had on late ninth-century western Europe.

Although this module will primarily examine political and military history we shall see that this had profound knock-on effects on social structure and the economy. On the way, we shall also confront a wide range of the sources available to the early medievalists: chronicles and other narratives, charters, later legends, coins, archaeological evidence, and so on. Whilst this amounts to far more data than you might have imagined, there is considerable scope for imaginative reconstruction too.

Teaching Programme:  
Teaching will be in weekly 2-hour seminars taught over eight weeks. Each week students will do reading and preparation in order to be able to contribute to discussion.

Seminars are likely to include:

  1. The Vikings and their origins        
  2. Anglo-Saxon politics in the ninth century: The decline of Mercia?
  3. Bald, Fat and Stammering: The Frankish Empire in trouble?
  4. The Great Army in Britain 865-71: Strategies and responses
  5. TheVikings in Francia
  6. The Vikings in Britain 871-0900: King Alfred: What aren't they telling us?
  7. Viking settlement, how, where, why and did anyone want it?
  8. The Viking Armies:  were they all bad?


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 2000 Words
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

During the autumn term students will be tasked with finding and researching their own primary source or sources in pairs or small groups, on which they will give a group presentation for formative assessment in one or more sessions during weeks 4-7.

Students will then submit 2,000-word assessed essay for summative assessment in week 10.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 2000 Words
N/A 100

Module feedback

The formative assessment is a group presentation and verbal feedback will be provided by the tutor in class followed by a written summary to each student within 10 working days. Students will have a 15 minute one-to-one tutorial to discuss the formative assessment and prepare for the summative assessment. For more information, see the Statement on Feedback.

For the summative assessment task, students will receive their provisional mark and written feedback within 20 working days of the submission deadline. The tutor will then be available during student hours for follow-up guidance if required. For more information, see the Statement on Assessment.

Indicative reading

For term time reading, please refer to the module VLE site. Should you wish to do any preliminary reading, you could look at the following:

Haywood, John. The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Vikings. London: Penguin Books, 1995.

Sawyer, P. H. (ed.). The Oxford Illustrated History of the Vikings. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): changes to courses

The 2020/21 academic year will start in September. We aim to deliver as much face-to-face teaching as we can, supported by high quality online alternatives where we must.

Find details of the measures we're planning to protect our community.

Course changes for new students