The Fall of Rome: The Western Empire in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages (HIH1602)

StaffDr Levi Roach - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level4
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module aims to acquaint students with the changes which western European society underwent in the fourth and fifth centuries by means of a close examination of contemporary sources. These sources will serve as a point of introduction to broader historiographical debates regarding the ‘Fall of Rome’ and the ‘Transformation of the Roman World’. The attempt will not be to ‘settle’ these debates definitively, but rather to gain an appreciation for the evidence behind the many different (and often very polarised) opinions expressed. A particular focus will be on continuity and change (and what we mean by these terms), as well as the implications of such debates for the modern world.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate an understanding of some of the theories that underpin approaches to the end of Roman rule in the early medieval West and to apply them to specific case-studies.
  • 2. Assess critically the range of sources emerging from the late Roman and early medieval West.
  • 3. Assess the sources in relation to the numerous debates surrounding this period.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Identify the problems of using historical sources, e.g. utility, limitations, etc, and to compare the validity of different types of sources.
  • 5. Answer a question briefly and concisely.
  • 6. Present work orally, to respond to questions orally, and to think quickly of questions to ask other students.

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

Syllabus plan

  •     The Fall of Rome: Historiographical Perspectives

  •     The Later Roman Empire: Continuity and Change

  •     The Barbarian Invasions: Cause or Symptom?

  •     Ethnicity and its Discontents: The Nature of the ‘Barbarian Hordes’

  •     The Fate of Italy: Theodoric and the Ostrogoths

  •     Spain and Provenance under Visigothic Rule

  •     From Gaul to Frankia: The Merovingians and the Franks

  •     Catastrophe across the Channel? England and the Anglo-Saxons

  •     A Mad, Bad and Dangerous People? Vandal Rule in North Africa

  •     The Eastern Alternative: Justinian and the Byzantine Empire

  •    Concluding Debate: Did Rome Fall?

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
Lecture2Introduction to module
Workshop10 x 2 hour seminarsAt 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 learning128Students prepare for the session through reading and research; writing a weekly source 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, 6-9Oral

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
Portfolio of seven essays 77 (11% per essay)400-500 words1-5, 7-8, 10Mark and written comments
Essay231000 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
Portfolio of seven 400-500 word essaysPortfolio of seven essays1-5, 7-8, 10Referred/deferred period
1 x 1000 word essay1 x 1000 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

Callander Murray, A., trans., From Roman to Merovingian Gaul: A Reader (Peterborough, ON, 2000)

Cameron, A. and P. Garnsey, ed., The Cambridge Ancient History,XIV: Late Antiquity: Empire and Successors AD 425-600 (Cambridge, 1998)

Brown, P., The World of Late Antiquity (London, 1971; repr. 1997)

Brown, P., The Rise of Western Christendom: Triumph and Diversity, AD 200-1000, 2nd ed. (Oxford, 2003)

Fouracre, P., ed., The New Cambridge Medieval History, I: c.500–c.700 (Cambridge, 2005)

Geary, P., The Myth of Nations: The Medieval Origins of Europe (Princeton, NJ, 2002)

Halsall, G., Barbarian Migrations and the Roman West, 376–568 (Cambridge, 2007)

Heather, P., The Fall of the Roman Empire (London, 2005)

Innes, M., An Introduction to Early Medieval Western Europe, 300–900: The Sword, the Plough and the Book (London, 2007)

Maas, M., ed., Readings in Late Antiquity: A Sourcebook, 2nd ed. (London, 2010)

Ward-Perkins, B., The Fall of Rome and the End of Western Civilization (Oxford, 2005)

Wickham, C., The Inheritance of Rome (London, 2009)

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Halsall, G., ‘Translations of Primary Sources, c.300-c.800: A Handlist’:

Halsall, P., ed., ‘Internet Medieval Sourcebook’:

Available as distance learning?


Origin date

30 June 2012

Last revision date

1 October 2012