Warriors, Myths and Migrants: the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms - HIST6115

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2023 to 2024
Autumn Term 5 30 (15) Robert Gallagher checkmark-circle


Early medieval Britain has often been mythologized in popular culture as a murky time of origins, heroes and legends: King Arthur and his round table; Beowulf and his dragon; and the earliest foundations of England. The historic reality is, however, far more fascinating and complex. The end of Roman imperial rule in Britain in the fifth century gave way to a period of seismic social, political and cultural change. Pagan religious practices became prevalent, while a Germanic language, Old English, became the dominant spoken tongue of communities in large swathes of southern Britain. At the same time, a fractured political landscape emerged, with new polities forming, including Kent, Mercia and Wessex, each with their own rulers, many of whom heralded themselves as kings. These transformations are often attributed to new waves of migration, and indeed, the events and developments of the period can only be understood fully in their broader European context. This module offers an introduction to these developments from the fifth to ninth centuries, tracing the formation of new kingdoms, assessing the changing, gendered structures of society, and exploring the cultural influences and practices of the period. We will meet a diverse series of individuals, including the notorious Bishop Wilfrid, the influential abbess Hild of Whitby, and Hadrian, the African leader of Canterbury's St Augustine’s abbey. In doing so, we will take the opportunity to explore the unique early medieval material and textual remains in Canterbury itself, and throughout the course a key question will be: how can we characterize such a large period of history with substance and integrity?


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 30
Private study hours: 270
Total study hours: 300

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods

Essay 1 (3,000 words) 30%
Essay 2 (3,000 words) 30%
Source Critique (1,000 words) 20%
Presentation 10%
Seminar Participation 10%

Reassessment methods
100% coursework (3,000-word essay)

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List:

Blair, John (2000). The Anglo-Saxon Age: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Breay, Claire and Story, Joanna, eds (2018). Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms: Art, Word, War. London: British Library.
Campbell, James, ed. (1982). The Anglo-Saxons. Oxford: Phaidon.
Crawford, Sally (2009). Daily Life in Anglo-Saxon England. Oxford: Greenwood World.
Fleming, Robin (2010). Britain After Rome: The Fall and Rise, 400 to 1070. London: Allen Lane.
Higham, Nicholas J. and Ryan, Martin J. (2013). The Anglo-Saxon World. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Stafford, Pauline, ed. (2009). A Companion to the Early Middle Ages: Britain and Ireland, c.500–1100. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.
Yorke, Barbara (1999). The Anglo-Saxons. Stroud: Sutton

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Demonstrate an understanding of the major political, social and cultural developments in the history of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Britain up to the ninth century
2 Apply different methodological techniques to the analysis of a range of textual and material sources from the period
3 Engage with current scholarly debates and theoretical models concerning the framing of early medieval history
4 Critically evaluate contemporary cultural and political appropriations of the medieval past

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Formulate and express arguments clearly in writing with the support of both primary sources and secondary literature
2 Manage their own learning by carrying out independent research and seeking out research materials
3 Employ different types of evidence and intellectual concepts in order to identify solutions to historical problems
4 Express arguments, interpretations and ideas and demonstrate strong communication skills


  1. Credit level 5. Intermediate level module usually taken in Stage 2 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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