The Age of AEthelred 'the Unready': Context (HIH3118)

StaffDr Levi Roach - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level6
Pre-requisitesAt least 90 credits of History at Level 1 and/or Level 2.
Co-requisitesThe Age of Æthelred ‘the Unready’: Sources
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks; Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module is designed to introduce students to social and political developments in England and western Europe in the reign of King Æthelred ‘the Unready’ (978–1016). The first half of the module will be dedicated to Æthelred’s reign in England, seeking to illustrate how this most maligned of English monarchs sought to navigate the vicissitudes of his age. Key themes will include the growth of governmental structures, the impact of monastic reform, and responses to the ongoing viking attacks. The second half will place these developments within a wider context. Consideration will be given to developments in England before and after Æthelred’s reign, as well as to his continental counterparts. Themes will include ideals and practices kingship, the establishment of new dynasties, monastic reform and the cult of saints.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Evaluate the different complex themes in the ‘Age of Æthelred’.
  • 2. Make close specialist evaluation of the key developments within the period, developed through independent study and seminar work.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. Analyse the key developments within England and western Europe during the reign of King Æthelred.
  • 4. Focus on and comprehend complex issues.
  • 5. Understand and deploy relevant historical terminology in a comprehensible manner.
  • 6. Follow social and political developments across the period.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Do independent and autonomous study and group work, including 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. Present complex arguments orally.

Syllabus plan

Term One:

  • England before Æthelred: From Alfred the Great to Edward the Martyr
  • Æthelred: A Mad, Bad and Dangerous King?


Term Two:

  • Æthelred’s Legacy: A Kingdom Lost and Won
  • Æthelred’s Continental Counterparts: Contact, Comparison, Contrast
  • Themes in the ‘Age of Æthelred’


The introductory session will offer an overview for students who may have little background in the subject. The co-requisite module will provide close focus on the historical sources available for detailed analysis of Æthelred’s reign.

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 activities.4422 x 2 hour seminars.
Guided independent study.256Reading and preparing for seminars, coursework and presentations.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Seminar discussionOngoing through course1-7, 9Verbal from tutor and other students.
Worse of two essay marks3000 words1-6, 8-9Verbal and written

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
Better of two essay marks333000 words1-8Verbal and written
Unseen exam672 questions in 2 hours1-8Verbal and written

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Better of two essaysBetter of two essays1-8Referral/deferral period
Unseen examUnseen exam1-8Referral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Introductory reading:


S. Keynes, The Diplomas of King Æthelred ‘the Unready’, 978–1016: A Study in their Use as Historical Evidence (Cambridge, 1980)

S. Keynes, ‘A Tale of Two Kings: Alfred the Great and Æthelred the Unready’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society,5th ser. 36 (1986), 195–217

D. Hill, ed., Ethelred the Unread: Papers from the Millenary Conference, BAR: British Series 59 (London, 1978)

P. Stafford, Unification and Conquest: A Political and Social History of England in the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries (London, 1989)

M. Townend, ed., Wulfstan, Archbishop of York (Turnhout, 2004)

T. Reuter, ed., The New Cambridge Medieval History, III, c. 900–1024 (Cambridge, 2000)

A. Williams, Æthelred the Unready: The Ill-Counselled King (London, 2003)

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

‘Kemble’ Website:

Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England:

Available as distance learning?