Module Catalogue 2022/23

HIS3321 : Viking-Age Scandinavia

  • Offered for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Scott Ashley
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
Pre Requisites
Pre Requisite Comment


Co Requisites
Co Requisite Comment



The Vikings transformed the face of northern Europe in the early middle ages. Raiding and settlement in the British Isles, Normandy, Iceland, Greenland and North America created a culture and economy that stretched across the Atlantic Ocean five hundred years before Columbus. In the east, Swedish Rus traders and raiders sailed to Constantinople and exchanged furs and slaves for the silver of the Islamic world. But how were early medieval Scandinavians able to achieve such feats and what effects did they have on their homelands?

This Special Subject allows you to explore the origins and course of the Viking-Age in Denmark, Norway and Sweden using a variety of written sources, including the Icelandic family and kings’ sagas, ancient Old Norse poetry and mysterious runic inscriptions. You will get the opportunity to examine in detail some of the key archaeological sites in Scandinavia, some only discovered in the last few years, including the trading-towns of Ribe, Kaupang and Birka, the great aristocratic complexes of Uppåkra and Tissø around the Baltic Sea, and Borg in Lofoten on the edge of the Arctic. You will also be able to delve into the everyday and inner lives of the Vikings, exploring their customs in life and death, their memories, heroes and religious beliefs, both heathen and Christian. This module will open a window for you onto a civilization that can be both profoundly alien and curiously familiar, but that is without doubt one of the most fascinating Europe has produced.

The module aims are to provide an opportunity to:
1) Engage with a series of challenging literary, material and visual sources and to develop an in-depth knowledge of a pivotal region in the history of early medieval Europe.
2) Acquire a sound general knowledge of the subject, reading widely and critically in the primary and secondary literature associated with it and to develop the capacity for independent study.
3) Investigate in some depth selected problems, including the appraisal of selected source material and the critical examination of current historiography.

Outline Of Syllabus

The module will cover the political, social, cultural and economic history of Viking-Age Scandinavia, between c.700 and 1000 AD. Topics covered in the seminars may include:

1. Kingship in Norway and Denmark
2. ‘Central Places’
3. Towns
3. Old Norse myth and religion
4. Christianization
5. Silver and the Islamic dirham trade
6. Heroic and skaldic poetry
7. Feud, gifts and exchange
8. Discovery and settlement of Iceland
9. Graves and burial customs
10. Relations with the Sámi and the Arctic

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

By the end of this module, students will have gained a thorough understanding of Viking-Age Scandinavia between c. 750–1000AD and the major themes in the historiography and archaeology of the period. They will have gained a detailed knowledge of selected primary texts and of key artefacts and sites used to explore these themes.

Intended Skill Outcomes

Development of the capacity for independent study and critical judgement and of the ability to respond promptly, cogently and clearly to new and unexpected questions arising from this study.
Development of associated skills in research, critical reading and reasoning, sustained discussion and appropriate presentation of the results.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion561:0056:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading561:0056:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching113:0033:00PiP seminars
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study551:0055:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Seminars encourage independent study and promote improvements in oral communication, problem-solving skills and adaptability.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1M40Essay or doc. commentary of 1500 words, inc. footnotes but excl. bibliography.
Research paper1A60Research paper (guidance within module) of 2,500 words, inc. footnotes but excluding bibliography.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Work submitted during the delivery of the module forms a means of determining student progress. Submitted work tests knowledge outcomes and develops skills in research, reading and writing.

Submitted work tests intended knowledge and skills outcomes, develops key skills in research, reading and writing.

Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending semester 1 only are required to finish their assessment while in Newcastle. Where an exam is present, an alternative form of assessment will be set and where coursework is present, an alternative deadline will be set. Details of the alternative assessment will be provided by the module leader.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2022/23 academic year. In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described. Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2023/24 entry will be published here in early-April 2023. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.