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Vikings and Historians: Historiographical Dialogues through the Ages - HIS00156I

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Pragya Vohra
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25
    • See module specification for other years: 2023-24

Module summary

Setting out in impressive ships on seas uncharted to lands unknown, the romance of the Vikings has long been part of European historical and popular culture. In the absence of contemporary narrative sources from the Vikings themselves, their image has been shaped by those who studied them, from the contemporary historians who were their victims, to later scholars who were influenced by the issues of their own times. The purpose of this module is to delve into this historiography of the Viking age over the last millennium and recognise its palimpsest-like nature, building up layer-by-layer from the 9th century to modern perceptions today.

Beginning with contemporary and near-contemporary writings from Europe and the Middle East, we will consider the narratives that laid the foundations on which the image of the Viking was based. We will then move on to consider the various afterlives of the Vikings, focussing on particular periods of heightened interest, before wrapping up the module with scholarly and popular perspectives on the Vikings in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Throughout this module, we will engage with primary sources of various kinds, from formal histories to popular stories, as well as with the historians who created them in their own contexts.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2024-25

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To provide students with the opportunity to study particular historical topics in depth
  • To develop students’ ability to examine a topic from a range of perspectives and to strengthen their ability to work critically and reflectively with secondary and primary material

Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will:

  • Have acquired a deep knowledge of the specific topic studied
  • Have developed their ability to use and synthesise a range of primary and secondary sources
  • Be able to evaluate the arguments that historians have made about the topic studied
  • Have developed their ability to study independently through seminar-based teaching

Module content

Students will attend a 1-hour briefing in week 1. Students will then attend a 1-hour plenary/lecture and a 2-hour seminar in weeks 2-4, 6-8 and 10-11 of semester 1. Weeks 5 & 9 are Reading and Writing Weeks (RAW) during which there are no seminars. Students prepare for and participate in eight 1-hour plenaries/lectures and eight 2-hour seminars in all.

Seminar topics are subject to variation, but are likely to include the following:

  1. Anglo-Saxons and Franks: contemporary historical writings
  2. Arabs: contemporary ethnographies
  3. Anglo-Normans and Later Medieval Writers: memories of the recent past
  4. Knut, James I and Early Modernists: dynastic breaks and past exemplars
  5. Victorians: rediscovering the North
  6. Antiquarians and Nazis: myths and histories
  7. Revisionists: less raid, more trade
  8. Televisionists: modern depictions and historical research


Task Length % of module mark
Assessed Essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

For formative assessment, students will complete a referenced 1200 to 1500-word essay relating to the themes and issues of the module. This will be submitted in either the Week 5 or Week 9 RAW week (on the day of the weekly seminar).

For summative assessment, students will complete an Assessed Essay (2000 words, footnoted). This will comprise 100% of the overall module mark.

Summative assessments will be due in the assessment period.


Task Length % of module mark
Assessed Essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

Following their formative assessment task, students will typically receive written feedback that will include comments and a mark within 10 working days of submission.

Work will be returned to students in their seminars and may be supplemented by the tutor giving some oral feedback to the whole group. All students are encouraged, if they wish, to discuss the feedback on their formative work during their tutor’s student hours. For more information, see the Statement on Feedback.

For the summative assessment task, students will receive their provisional mark and written feedback within 25 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. Before the course starts, we encourage you to look at the following items of preliminary reading:

  • J.D. Richards, The Vikings: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005).
  • Eleanor Parker, Dragon Lords: The History and Legends of Viking England (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2018).
  • Andrew Wawn, The Vikings and the Victorians: Inventing the Old North in Nineteenth-Century Britain (Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer Ltd, 2002).

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.