Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module HIST20N1: From Raiders to Rulers: The Creation of the Norman Kingdom of Sicily (c.1000-c.1200)

Department: History

HIST20N1: From Raiders to Rulers: The Creation of the Norman Kingdom of Sicily (c.1000-c.1200)

Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham


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


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To introduce students to processes of large-scale conquests and migrations that shaped the landscapes and societies of the medieval Mediterranean over a two hundred-year period.
  • To introduce students to how power/ rule was established and exercised by a dominant minority group through the case study of the Normans in Southern Italy and Sicily.
  • To develop students’ understanding of medieval societies that were religiously, linguistically and culturally diverse
  • To develop students’ ability to engage with medieval Mediterranean texts and analyse historical events and cultural interactions


  • At around the same time as the Norman conquest of England, a small group of people from the duchy of Normandy expanded into the central Mediterranean. Over the course of the next few decades, they would not only succeed in displacing the region’s Byzantine and Lombard rulers, but also trigger the collapse of Islamic rule in Sicily. In 1130, these territories would be incorporated within a single kingdom which, at its peak, would come to comprise most of Italy to the south of Rome, the islands of Sicily and Malta and a tract of North Africa. From here, irreversible political, religious and cultural frontiers came to form new territories and identities that would divide Latin-Christian Europe from Muslim Africa. However, how historiography should interpret this seminal period has long-divided opinion. For some, Sicily was a ‘land without crusaders’: its conspicuous use of Byzantine, Islamic and ‘western-European’ arts and languages pointing to accommodation and tolerance of its multi-faith, multi-cultural population. For others, the Norman involvement in Sicily has been summarised as a ‘crusade from the start’ which pushed Sicilian-Muslim communities to the brink of destruction and dragged the island back into the political, cultural, linguistic and religious orbit of ‘Latin Europe’. Our course shall facilitate discussion of these debates by approaching this conquest from two opposing perspectives: that of the victorious Normans and that of the subdued people – Muslim, Greek, Lombard, and Jewish. In doing so, we shall critically evaluate modern concepts which have endeavoured to understand political and religious expansions and their subsequent transformation of societies and landscapes through the case study of Sicily.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • A detailed understanding of how Norman power in Southern Italy and Sicily was established and how it changed the physical and social landscapes of this region
  • A comprehension of the ways in which historians analyse political and religious expansions, power and its influence on minority groups from both top-down and bottom-up perspectives
  • An awareness of how the religious borders of the Mediterranean (‘Islamicate’ vs ‘Christian’ sphere) shifted during the High Middle Ages
Subject-specific Skills:
  • http://www.dur.ac.uk/history.internal/local/ModuleProformaMap/Index.htm
Key Skills:
  • - http://www.dur.ac.uk/history.internal/local/ModuleProformaMap/Index.htm

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 two teaching methods, lectures and seminars:
  • The lectures will introduce students to the major historical and historiographical issues and lay the foundations for further (independent) study and 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 will offer students the opportunity to focus on issues arising from the lectures. The seminar will allow the students to present and critically reflect upon the acquired subject-specific knowledge, methodologies and theories, and to identify and debate on a range of issues and 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; develop the ability to marshal historical evidence; facilitate the development of historical arguments; think in a rapidly changing environment; communicate in a persuasive and articulate manner; and recognise the value of working with others towards both individual and shared goals. In their essays, students will be able to examine certain areas within the module’s range of study in greater detail, reflecting the particular nature of the available resources.
  • Assessment
  • Students will be examined on subject specific knowledge;
  • Summative assessment will be by an essay of 3000 words and an additional assignment or assignments of 1,000 words total. Essays remain a central component of assessment in history, due to the integrative high-order skills they develop. Essays allow students the opportunity to recognise, represent and critically reflect upon ideas, concepts and problems; students can demonstrate awareness of, and the ability to use and evaluate a diverse range of resources and identify, represent and debate a range of subject-specific issues and opinions. Through the essay, students can synthesise information, adopt critical appraisals and develop reasoned argument based on individual research; they should be able to communicate ideas in writing, with clarity and coherence; and to show the ability to integrate and critically assess material from a wide range of sources. The additional summative assignments will test knowledge and skills specific to the module, such as analysis of relevant primary sources, or critical engagement with the historiography as demonstrated through book reviews and article abstracts.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 16 Term 1 1 hour 16
Seminars 7 Term 1 1 hour 7
Preparation and Reading 177
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 75%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 3000 words excluding footnotes and bibliography 100%
Component: Assignment Component Weighting: 25%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Assignment or assignments 1,000 words total, not including footnotes and bibliography where relevant 100%

Formative Assessment:

Formative benefits from the 1,000 word summative assignment and from work done during and in preparation for seminars.

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