Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module HIST20I1: Gregory of Tours and the Early Merovingians, c. 500 - 600

Department: History

HIST20I1: Gregory of Tours and the Early Merovingians, c. 500 - 600

Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap None. Location Durham


  • • A pass mark in at least ONE level one module in History.


  • • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • • None.


  • Develop the way in which students use primary sources.
  • To develop students' ability to engage with texts and interpret history by situating these in their wider context.


  • After the fall of the western Roman empire, a number of ‘barbarian’ kingdoms struggled for control of Gaul, the region now named after the group that won: the Franks. They were led by the royal dynasty of the Merovingians, a family that dominated much of western Europe for more than two hundred years. Most of what we know about the early Merovingian dynasty comes from the pen of a single man, Gregory, bishop of Tours from 573 until his death in 594. In his Ten Books of History (today often called The History of the Franks), Gregory chronicled the violent feuds, bitter rivalries, and passionate love affairs of this turbulent family and those who were drawn into their nexus of power. This module is a study not just of the Merovingians, but of how and why Gregory presents them as he does. What was his family background and world-view? What sources did he draw on? How was he involved in the political events he describes, and how far can we trust him? And finally, how can other evidence — written, archaeological, architectural, climatological — deepen our understanding of this strange sixth-century world, as western Europe hovered between the faded majesty of imperial Rome and the bold, brash new kingdoms of the early Middle Ages?

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • an understanding of the key themes, issues, and historiographical debates
  • an awareness of the source material
  • an ability to evaluate critically a range of sources and the methodological approaches used to interpret them
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Subject specific skills for this module can be viewed at: http://www.dur.ac.uk/history.internal/local/ModuleProformaMap/
Key Skills:
  • Key skills for this module can be viewed at: http://www.dur.ac.uk/history.internal/local/ModuleProformaMap/

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

  • Student learning is facilitated by a combination of the following teaching methods:
  • lectures to set the foundations for further study and to provide the basis for the acquisition of subject specific knowledge. Lectures provide a broad framework which defines individual module content, introducing students to themes, debates and interpretations. In this environment, students are given the opportunity to develop skills in listening, selective note-taking and reflection;
  • seminars to allow students to present and critically reflect upon the acquired subject-specific knowledge, methodologies and theories, and to identify and debate a range of issues and differing opinions. The seminar is the forum in which students are given the opportunity to communicate ideas, jointly exploring themes and arguments. Seminars are structured to develop understanding and designed to maximise student participation related to prior independent preparation. Seminars give students the opportunity to develop oral communication skills, encourage critical and tolerant approaches to reasoned argument and historical discussion, build the students' ability to marshal historical evidence, and facilitate the development of the ability to summarise historical arguments, think in a rapidly changing environment and communicate in a persuasive and articulate manner, whilst recognising the value of working with others and, occasionally, towards shared goals.
  • Assessment:
  • Unseen Examinations test students' ability to work under pressure under timed conditions, to prepare for examinations and direct their own programme of revision and learning, and develop key time management skills. The unseen examination gives students the opportunity to develop relevant life skills such as the ability to produce coherent, reasoned and supported arguments under pressure. Students will be examined on subject specific knowledge;

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 17 16 in Term 2; 1 in Term 3 1 hour 17
Seminars 6 6 in Term 2 1 hour 6
Preparation and Reading 177
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Unseen Examination 2 hours 100%

Formative Assessment:

A mock take-home examination submitted in 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