Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2019-2020 (archived)

Module HIST43430: Anglo-Saxon Societies and Cultures: Interdisciplinary approaches to early medieval England

Department: History

HIST43430: Anglo-Saxon Societies and Cultures: Interdisciplinary approaches to early medieval England

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2019/20 Module Cap


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To introduce students to a range of textual, material and visual evidence available for early medieval England (c. AD 400-1100).
  • To enable students to develop their knowledge of early medieval England / the Anglo-Saxon period and culture through seminars and an in-depth study of a topic of their choice.
  • To study the emergence, development and consolidation of textual, material and visual cultures in early medieval England.
  • To complement other optional modules in a range of MA programmes, including: MA in History (History Department; V1KC07); MA in Archaeology (Historic Strand) (Archaeology Department; F4K007) MA in Medieval and Early Modern Studies (History Department; R9K807) MA in Visual Arts and Culture (Modern Languages and Cultures; R9T107) MA in Medieval and Renaissance Literary Studies (English Department; Q3K407)
  • To build on the core modules of these MA programmes by encouraging students to take an interdisciplinary approach to the Anglo-Saxon past by integrating textual, material and visual evidence along with historical, archaeological and visual cultural approaches and methodologies.
  • To prepare students for the possibility of further critical exploration of Anglo-Saxon / early medieval topics in the dissertation module in these MA programmes.


  • The module explores the changing societies and cultures within early medieval England during the Anglo-Saxon period (c.400-1100), examining the major problems and issues through a combination of textual, material and visual evidence. In addition, where appropriate, other disciplinary approaches or materials (e.g. genetics, place-names, linguistics, literary studies) will be considered alongside these.
  • The Anglo-Saxon period is usually held to start in the fifth century with the arrival of Germanic immigrants into late Roman Britain, bringing with them a new language and new cultural practices. Over the following centuries various different ethnic groups coalesced into a number of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. These kingdoms gradually fell under the influence of the West Saxon kings, who ultimately created a united kingdom of England that endured until 1066 and beyond. Within this five hundred year period, England also saw Danish and Norwegian raids and ultimately settlers, as well as the establishment of a ‘viking’ kingdom centred around York: as a result, in parts of northern England, language, culture and society were indelibly altered by these Scandinavian influences. Early medieval north-western Europe also saw considerable missionary activity, both to and from the British Isles, and throughout the period the shifting relationships of these societies and cultures to Christianity recur frequently as a major issue.
  • Four key themes will be used to structure the exploration of societies and cultures in early medieval England across the central seminars of the module. Two sessions (seminars and/or field-trips) will be devoted to each theme, and will usually be taught by more than one member of staff. Key themes for exploration might include: religion and belief; law and power; England and the continent; economy and society; or others depending on staff availability. Within each session, a number of case-studies will be used to explore how those themes relate to particular moments or problems in the Anglo-Saxon past.
  • The first seminar will be skills-based: in addition to introducing the module, it will familiarise students with different resources for study and their uses, and also challenge students to consider the opportunities inherent in, and methodologies for, interdisciplinary study of the Anglo-Saxon past. The following eight sessions (seminars/field-trips) will be structured around four themes (as outlined above). Each seminar will include formative student presentations on a range of topics which will be used as a basis for student-led discussion of the relevant issues. The final session will be a ‘mini-conference’ structured around assessed student presentations.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • A broad knowledge of the development and consolidation of Anglo-Saxon societies and cultures from AD 400 to 1100.
  • A detailed knowledge of the key themes explored in the module, based upon a variety of sources and methodologies from different disciplines.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • An ability to use and integrate a range of interdisciplinary source material relevant to this period.
  • An ability to understand social, political, religious and cultural changes and trajectories by means of textual, material and visual evidence.
Key Skills:
  • A high level of ability in writing cogently and persuasively on a specialised comparative topic within the subject area of the module, drawing on the work of previous scholars as necessary.
  • A high level of ability in leading and presenting discussion and debate across a variety of media (written work, oral presentations, seminar discussions etc.).

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Teaching is delivered for the group together through seminars and field-trips, but students will also be allocated an advisor for the essay who will offer individual tutorials.
  • Formative assessment will take place via presentations within seminars and a draft bibliography.
  • The summative assessment for the module comprises two parts: 1) a 15-minute presentation (20%), assessed at a ‘mini-conference’ in which all students present to one another; 2) an essay of up to 4000 words.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Tutorials 2 In weeks 4 and 6 of Epiphany Term 1 hour 2
Seminars 10 Fortnightly in Terms 1 & 2 2 hours 20
Preparation and Reading 278
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 80%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Assessed essay on a comparative topic 5000 words 100%
Component: Presentation Component Weighting: 20%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Assessed presentation on a comparative topic 15 minutes, followed by 5 minutes discussion 100%

Formative Assessment:

At least one seminar presentation per term; a draft bibliography on the chosen essay topic for the second tutorial in the Epiphany Term.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University