Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module HIST2481: The Golden Age of Northumbria, c. 600–c. 800

Department: History

HIST2481: The Golden Age of Northumbria, c. 600–c. 800

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 the rich cultural, social and religious history of Northumbria in the early middle ages.
  • To engage students with a range of textual sources as well as visual and archaeological evidence to explore questions about Northumbria’s Renaissance in the period 650-800
  • To introduce students to the particular relationship between religion and politics in Northern England in this period, and its impact on the rest of Britain.


  • Anglo-Saxon Northumbria in the seventh and eighth centuries experienced an extraordinary growth in intellectual, artistic and religious culture, and saw a melding of Anglo-Saxon, Irish and Mediterranean traditions. Many of the treasures produced in this ‘Golden Age’ – such as the Lindisfarne Gospels – are still an important part of the nation’s (and the region’s) cultural heritage today. This module takes an interdisciplinary approach to studying culture, religion and politics in Northumbria from the mid seventh century through to the end of the eighth century, when vikings began to raid the coasts of Britain: students will be offered the opportunity to investigate textual sources such as histories and annals, letters, religious writings, literary works and scientific texts, and to set these alongside material and visual sources such as sculpture, architectural and archaeological evidence, and some of the manuscripts which survive from the period. This will allow us to explore questions such as: how did Northumbria achieve its cultural renaissance? How far was political and religious culture entangled in this period? How does our understanding of Northumbria and Northumbrian source material from this period affect our understanding of the rest of Britain? Was this really a ‘Golden Age’, and were the vikings responsible for its end?

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • an awareness of the source material and ideas used by historians to understand the intellectual, religious and political culture of Northumbria in the seventh and eighth centuries
  • an understanding of the key themes, issues, and historiographical debates about Northumbria in the seventh and eighth centuries
  • 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;
  • Summative 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.

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

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
unseen examination two 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