Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module HIST2521: From Vikings to Crusaders: the Formation of the Scandinavian Kingdoms, c. 900-1200

Department: History

HIST2521: From Vikings to Crusaders: the Formation of the Scandinavian Kingdoms, c. 900-1200

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 the political, social, religious and cultural history of Scandinavia in the high middle ages.
  • To engage students with a source material surviving from Scandinavia in the high middle ages including literary and legal sources.
  • To explore the relationship between religion and politics and the process of state formation in Scandinavia in the high middle ages.


  • In the period between around 900 and 1200, Scandinavia underwent a remarkable transformation. Norse paganism gave way to Christianity. Peaceful contacts with the rest of Europe increased. Latin literacy arrived, and with it documentary culture and political bureaucracy. Royal government became increasingly centralised. The Scandinavians, as a German chronicler had it, were ‘adjust[ing] themselves to other nations’ (Arnold of Lübeck). But there were limits to the ‘Europeanisation’ of Scandinavia. Provincial jurisdictions remained relatively independent from central government. Political culture was still remarkably violent: kings were murdered or killed in battle to a degree unparalleled elsewhere in the West. Viking raids of previous centuries were rivalled in intensity and violence by the exploitative, missionary warfare in the southern and eastern Baltic, the so-called Northern Crusades. In this module we will explore the formation of the kingdoms of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, and their journey from loose confederations ruled by pirate-kings to Christian monarchies which participated enthusiastically in the religious, military, and intellectual culture of Western Europe.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • A deeper understanding of the interaction between religion and politics (church and state) in northern Europe in the central middle ages.
  • An awareness of key themes such as state formation, ‘Europeanisation’, literate government, and Christian holy war in the central middle ages.
  • An ability to appreciate and evaluate a variety of sources, ranging from the great sagas to law codes and charters.
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 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:
  • Examinations test students' ability to work under pressure, to prepare for examinations and direct their own programme of revision and learning, and develop key time management skills. The 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 coursework will test students’ ability to communicate ideas in writing, present clear and cogent arguments succinctly and show appropriate critical skills as relevant to the particular module.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 17 16 in term 2, 1 in Term 3 1 17
Seminars 7 7 in Term 2 1 7
Preparation and reading 176
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Seen open book examination 2 hours 100%
Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Coursework assessment consisting of a short essay (max. 2,000 words) or assignment of equivalent length e.g. source commentaries 2,000 words excluding footnotes and bibliography. 100%

Formative Assessment:

Formative work done in preparation for and during seminars, including oral and written work as appropriate to the module. The summative coursework will have a formative element by allowing students to develop ideas and arguments for the examination and to practice writing to similar word limits.

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