Skip to main content


HIS3321 : Viking-Age Scandinavia

  • Offered for Year: 2021/22
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Scott Ashley
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


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

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion561:0056:001/3 of guided independent study
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading561:0056:001/3 of guided independent study
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching113:0033:00PiP seminars
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study551:0055:001/3 of guided independent study
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

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

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.

This module can be made available to Erasmus students only with the agreement of the Head of Subject and of the Module Leader. This option must be discussed in person at the beginning of your exchange period. No restrictions apply to study-abroad, exchange and Loyola students.

All Erasmus students at Newcastle University are expected to do the same assessment as students registered for a degree unless they have compelling reasons not to do so. If this is the case, they are offered the alternative of writing one 3,000 word essay to be handed in by 12.00 p.m. of the Friday of the first week of the assessment period. This will replace all assessment work required of other students on the module. In order to take up this option, students need to discuss it with the Study Abroad Co-ordinator and their module leader, having checked with their home university that the new assessment will be accepted by them. The Study Abroad Co-ordinator will have the final say on such issues.

Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending semester 1 only are required to finish their assessment while in Newcastle. This will require the provision of an alternative assessment before the end of teaching week 12. The alternative form of assessment for all semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be two 1,500 word essays in addition to the other coursework assessment. The essays should be set so as to assure full coverage of the course content.

Study-abroad, exchange proper and Loyola students spending the whole academic year or semester 2 are required to complete the standard assessment as set out in the MOF under all circumstances.

Reading Lists