The Viking Phenomenon (HIH1501)

StaffDr Helen Birkett - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.50
NQF Level4
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module takes a familiar historical phenomenon, the Viking raids and expansion during the eighth to eleventh centuries, and uses it as a vehicle for examining the possibilities and limitations of our extant sources. As well as exploring the reality of Viking activities and culture in the early medieval period, the module examines how later historians and commentators have used the available evidence to construct different images of the Vikings. Throughout the course, the emphasis is not on the acquisition of a detailed knowledge of Viking actions and events but on the interpretation of different kinds of textual and material sources that shed light on this phenomenon.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Ability to assess the nature of the Viking phenomenon.
  • 2. Ability to engage critically with a diverse range of medieval and modern source material relating to the subject
  • 3. Ability to understand the purposes for which different sources were produced and what this can tell us about the societies in question.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Ability to identify the problems of using historical sources, e.g. bias, reliability, etc, and to compare the validity of different types of source.
  • 5. Ability to answer a question briefly and concisely.
  • 6. Ability to present work orally, to respond to questions orally, and to think quickly of questions to ask other students.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Independent study and group work, including the presentation of material for group discussion, developed through the mode of learning.
  • 8. Ability to digest, select and organise material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument, developed through the mode of assessment.
  • 9. Ability to work with others in a team and to interact effectively with the tutor and the wider group
  • 10. Ability to write to a very tight word-length

Syllabus plan

  1. Introduction: The Viking Phenomenon
  2. Vikings in the Modern Imagination
  3. Vikings in the Medieval Imagination
  4. Viking Self-representations
  5. Raiders
  6. Traders
  7. Explorers
  8. Rulers
  9. Settlers
  10. Pagans and Christians
  11. Re-assessing the Vikings

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities22 hour lecture: Introduction to module
Scheduled learning and teaching activities2010 x 2 hour seminars. At a meeting of the whole class generally a different group of 3-4 students will give a presentation to the whole class, followed by class discussion and working through the sources for that week carefully. Additional sources may be issued in the class and the lecturer will also use the time to set up issues for the following week.
Guided independent study128Students prepare for the session through reading and research; writing five source commentaries and an essay and preparing one group presentation in the course of the term.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group presentation (3-4 students)10-15 minutes1-4, 6-7, 9Oral
Lowest mark from portfolio of 5 source commentaries500 words1-5, 7-8, 10Mark and written comments

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
4 highest marks from portfolio of 5 source commentaries602000 words (500 per commentary) (15% per commentary)1-5, 7-8, 10Mark and written comments
Essay on Sources401500 words1-5, 7-8, 10Mark and written comments

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
4 highest marks of portfolio of 5 source commentaries4 highest marks of portfolio of 5 source commentaries1-5, 7-8, 10Referred/deferred period
1500-word essay1500-word essay1-5, 7-8, 10Referred/deferred period

Re-assessment notes

You will be required to submit the same written work as for the summative assessment; if you are referred your mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • S. Brink and N. Price, The Viking World (New York, 2008)
  • P. Sawyer, Kings and Vikings (London, 1982)
  • P. Sawyer, The Age of the Vikings (2nd edn, London, 1971)
  • P. Sawyer (ed.), The Oxford Illustrated History of the Vikings (Oxford, 1997)

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