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HUMA2008 The Life and Afterlife of the Vikings

Module Overview

Blood, violence, terror, raids, pirates, rape and pillage are just some of the words associated with the Vikings in both the medieval and modern imagination. Their fearsome reputation is underlined by nicknames such as ‘Blood Axe' and ‘Skull-splitter', but violence is only one part of Viking history. The Vikings also formed extensive trade networks across Europe and into Asia, founded new countries, developed new technologies, created beautiful objects and left behind a literary tradition that influenced European culture for many centuries. In this module, by studying historical, literary and archaeological sources, you will examine both the reality of Viking society and how Viking identity was perceived over the course of the middle ages. Topics will include: Viking migration and settlements (for example, the foundation of Iceland), the mechanics of exchange (trade and gift-giving), kingship and kinship, travel and technology, the saga tradition and its influence, the material culture of the Vikings, religious beliefs and mission, perceptions of the Vikings and the formation of the Viking ‘myth'.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• examine the reality and perception of the Vikings as a people in the middle ages and modern era • illustrate how scholars of the medieval period use sources and methodologies from a range of disciplines • examine key themes of the Viking Age • consider the debates surrounding the nature of the Vikings and their impact on Europe and beyond

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • the potential and problems of archaeological, historical and literary sources
  • scholarly models of Viking expansion and activity
  • how identities are constructed historically
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • analyse conflicting views
  • critically examine the presentation of the Vikings in medieval sources and modern writing
  • determine the importance or otherwise of key developments in thinking about the nature of Vikings in medieval society
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • handle a range of primary and secondary sources with an appropriate degree of sophistication
  • show an increasing level of confidence in discussion and debate
  • sustain an argument and explain your ideas in written work
  • evaluate the contribution of different kinds of data to a single topic
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • perform more advanced bibliographic searches
  • engage with a range of approaches drawn from different disciplines

Syllabus

Blood, violence, terror, raids, pirates rape and pillage are just some of the words associated with the Vikings in both the medieval and modern imagination. Their fearsome reputation is underlined by nicknames such as ‘Blood Axe’ and ‘Skull-splitter’, but violence is only one part of Viking history. The Vikings also formed extensive trade networks across Europe and Asia Minor, founded new countries, developed new technologies, created beautiful objects and left behind a literary tradition that influenced European culture for many centuries. In this module you will examine both the reality of Viking society and how Viking identity was perceived over the course of the middle ages by studying historical, literary and archaeological sources. Topics will include: Viking migration and settlements (for example, the foundation of Iceland), mechanics of exchange (trade and gift-giving), kingship and kinship, travel and technology, the saga tradition and its influence, the material culture of the Vikings, religious beliefs and mission, perceptions of the Vikings and the formation of the Viking ‘myth’.

Special Features

Interdisciplinary module taught by members of staff from subjects including Archaeology, English and History

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

The module will be team-taught by members of the Faculty of Humanities (two per seminar) through a combination of lectures and seminars. Learning activities will include independent study of the course material, oral presentations and small group work as appropriate.

TypeHours
Teaching24
Independent Study126
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

J. Graham-Campbell (1994). Cultural Atlas of the Viking World (New York. 

S. Brink (ed.) (2008). The Viking World. 

J. Graham-Campbell (2007). The Archaeology of Medieval Europe: Vol. 1 Eighth to Twelfth Centuries AD. 

E. Roesdahl (1991). The Vikings. 

A. Somerville and R. McDonald, (eds) (2010). The Viking Age: A Reader. 

The Sagas of the Icelanders with a preface by Jane Smiley. 

E. Christiansen (2006). The Norsemen in the Viking Age. 

P.H. Sawyer (1971). The Age of The Vikings. 

Assessment

Summative

MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2000 words) 50%
Examination  (2 hours) 50%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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