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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: 2022-23

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 Spring Term 2022-23

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 an unfamiliar period and/or approach to 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 further developed work undertaken in the Autumn Term lecture courses and skills portfolios, including historical analysis, note-taking, using primary sources, presenting to groups, and leading discussions in seminars;

  • Be able to construct a coherent historical argument in oral and written forms

Module content

Teaching Programme:

Teaching will be in weekly 2-hour seminars taught over nine weeks, plus an overview and revision session in Week 2 of Summer Term. 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
Not-online take-home exam (1 day)
24-Hour Open Exam
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Formative work:

During the Spring Term students will prepare a presentation in pairs or small groups. Tutors will determine the formative work for the course: all groups will present either on a primary source or on an assigned historiographical question. Formative work will be completed in one or more sessions at the tutor’s discretion.

Summative assessment:

An open exam in the Common Assessment Period, comprising one essay question chosen from five options.


Task Length % of module mark
Not-online take-home exam (1 day)
24-Hour Open Exam
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:

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.