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HIS3321 : Viking-Age Scandinavia (Inactive)

  • Inactive for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Scott Ashley
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
  • Capacity limit: 40 student places

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


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 completion561:0056:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading561:0056:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching113:0033:00Seminars
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.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1M40Creative writing exercise based on Beowulf of 1500 words, inc. footnotes but excl. bibliography.
Research paper1A60Research paper (guidance within module) of 2,500 words, inc. footnotes but excluding bibliography.
Formative Assessments

Formative Assessment is an assessment which develops your skills in being assessed, allows for you to receive feedback, and prepares you for being assessed. However, it does not count to your final mark.

Description Semester When Set Comment
Written exercise1M200 word Draft of the Beowulf creative writing piece (Essay 1) for oral and written feedback.
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.

Formative work gives students an opportunity to practice and develop their ideas, writing and research skills in preparation for the first summative assessment.

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.

Reading Lists