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Warriors & Peace-weavers? Men & Women in the Viking Age - HIS00091C

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Katherine Cross
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: C
  • Academic year of delivery: 2020-21

Module summary

In 866, a ‘Great Heathen Army’ of Scandinavian vikings attacked the city of York, armed for conquest. Within a few years, York had become the capital of a viking kingdom that would last for nearly a century, at the centre of a network of courts and family relationships stretching across northern Europe and beyond.  The men, women, and children in that viking world transformed early medieval culture, language, politics, and society.  Yet, when we read accounts written by their enemies and victims, viking armies can often seem like anonymous hordes. This module looks for the faces behind the (hornless!) helmets and the voices that have rarely left us written testimony. What motivated Scandinavians to leave their homelands and journey somewhere new? Who fought and travelled with viking armies? What was it like to marry, have children, and grow old in a Viking-Age colony?

This module introduces eight vikings as individuals: each week, we’ll meet one man or woman from the Viking Age and attempt to reconstruct their experiences, identities, and actions. We’ll ask what it meant to be male or female in the viking world, and what roles men and women played in the conflicts, conquests, and exploration that defined this period.

Our rich primary sources include contemporary historical texts and later Icelandic sagas, while archaeological evidence of bones and burials allows us to include people who left no written trace. Accompanying our Viking-Age individuals on their travels, we’ll sail from Scandinavia to North America and back to the streets of York itself. By the time we return, we’ll have addressed some of the major historical debates about the Viking Age and developed a deeper understanding of how personal relationships created a newly connected world.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Spring Term 2020-21

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:

Spring Term

1.                                         No teaching

2.                                         Introductory session: Who was a viking?

3.                                         Looking north: Ohthere’s journey

4.                                         Warriors and sea-kings: Ívarr the Boneless

5.                                         Viking warrior women? The case of the Birka burial

6.                                         Viking warrior to Christian duke: Rollo becomes Robert

7.                                         Meet the ancestors: Icelandic memory-keepers

8.                                         ‘Amazons in Vinland’: Freydís and Guðriðr

9.                                          Social roles in hybrid societies: a Scandinavian woman from Coppergate, York

10.                                       Regardless of sex? Men and women in the Viking Age

Summer Term

2.        Overview and revision



Task Length % of module mark
Online Exam
Warriors & Peace-weavers? Men & Women in the Viking Age
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
Online Exam
Warriors & Peace-weavers? Men & Women in the Viking Age
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:

Jóhanna Katrín Friðriksdóttir, Valkyrie: The Women of the Viking World (London: Bloomsbury, 2020)

Anders Winroth, The Age of the Vikings (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2014

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