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The Viking World: From Vínland to Samarkand - HIS00073C

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Pragya Vohra
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: C
  • Academic year of delivery: 2019-20

Module summary

Setting out in impressive ships on seas uncharted to lands unknown, the romance of the Vikings has long been part of historical and popular culture. Initially reviled as viscious raiders and plunderers; later rehabilitated as traders and settlers, the Vikings are a complex early medieval cultural group and left a lasting impact across the world, from Vínland in North America to Samarkand in the Middle East. In recent years, historians have begun to understand the Viking world as a diaspora: a world of shared origins, language and cultural elements.

In this module, we will sally forth with the Vikings, charting their expansion to the west and east of their Scandinavian homelands. We will explore their settlements and interactions with their host societies by looking at a variety of interdisciplinary (sometimes contradictory) evidence: material culture, runic inscriptions, coins and hoards, and even genetics. We will uncover the voices of the Vikings and their hosts through sources originally written in Latin, Old English and Arabic, as well as Old Norse. Through this, we will aim to understand the political, economic, social and cultural impact of the Vikings and how they shaped the period of history to which they gave their name. Finally, we will evaluate the concept of diaspora and how it is applied to the world of the Vikings.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2019-20

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

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.

The provisional outline for the module is as follows:

  1. Origins of the Vikings: Scandinavia before the ninth century
  2. Causes of the Viking Age? Understanding migration
  3. Vikings in the British Isles (England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales)
  4. Vikings on the Western European Continent (Frankia, Frisia, Normandy)
  5. Colonisation of Iceland, Greenland and Vínland
  6. Eastward expansion: Varangians and the Volga trade route
  7. Beyond Europe: Contact with the Middle East
  8. Theoretical or functional? Evaluating the Viking Diaspora


Task Length % of module mark
2000 word essay
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
2000 word essay
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. 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 of 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:

Jesch, Judith. The Viking Diaspora. London: Routledge, 2015.

Sawyer, Peter. The Oxford Illustrated History of the Vikings, 3rd edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

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