Vikings, in the popular imagination, are commonly perceived as horn-helmeted, blood-thirsty pirates who killed and pillaged their way across Europe in the Middle Ages with their blood-stained axes. In reality, Vikings did much more than that. They changed the existing early-medieval political order for good; they contributed a great deal to the international trade, economy and urbanisation of different parts of Europe; and they explored and settled the uncharted territories of the North Atlantic, specifically the Scottish Isles, Iceland, Greenland, and as far as 'Vinland' (parts of Newfoundland), becoming the first Europeans to reach and temporarily settle in the North American continent; and they were perhaps the most engaging story-tellers of their time. By the time the Norse settled down and ceased raiding in the second half of the eleventh century, they had fundamentally altered the political, religious, economic and military history of much of the known world. This course will attempt to separate fact from fiction by critically reading and analysing primary source documents alongside archaeological, linguistic and place-name evidence, and thereby uncover the real history that lies behind the well-known stories of the Viking World. In addition, the students will be introduced to the major historiographical debates related to the Viking Age.
Method of assessment
The module will be assessed by coursework (60%) and examination (40%).
(a) The coursework component will be assessed as follows:
1. One 2,000-word topical essay = 30%
2. One 2,000-word thematic essay =30%
(b) The examination will be two-hours long, and represents 40% of the final module mark.
• T.A. DuBois (1999) Nordic Religions in the Viking Age. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press
• J. Jochens (1995) Women in Old Norse Society. New York: Cornell University Press
• W.I. Miller (1990) Bloodtaking and Peacemaking. Chicago: University of Chicago Press
• P. Sawyer (1971) Age of the Vikings. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press
• P.H. Sawyer (ed.) (1997) Oxford Illustrated History of the Vikings. Oxford: OUP
• A. Winroth (2014) The Age of the Vikings. Princeton: Princeton University Press
As a consequence of taking this module, students will have:
11.1 Gained an understanding of, and will be able to interpret, the political, social, cultural and economic aspects of Viking Europe (c.750-1066). Students will have obtained a knowledge of the most important relevant episodes of the history of the late-medieval period, the most essential primary sources (in translation), and some of the historiographical debates surrounding the subject.
11.2 Developed their ability to discuss the issues that are raised in the module, and to present their work in written and oral form. Through exposure to the distinctive nature of the Viking Age and the Viking society, students will have gained an enhanced understanding of the diversity of human cultures, and the different situations in which historical changes occur.
11.3 Demonstrated a broad conceptual command of the course, and an thorough and systematic understanding of the latest research.
11.4 Demonstrated their capacity to assess and critically engage with primary sources
11.5 Demonstrated independent learning skills by being able to make use of a wide range of high-level resources, including up-to-date research in peer-reviewed journals, information technology, relevant subject bibliographies and other primary and secondary sources.
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