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Module HGH-3139:
Norman Sicily

Module Facts

Run by School of History, Philosophy and Social Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Dr Mark Hagger

Overall aims and purpose

This module looks at the advent of the Normans in southern Italy c. 1000, and their subsequent conquests of Apulia, Calabria, and Sicily. The expansion of Norman rule in the region culminated in the creation of the kingdom of Sicily in 1130, when Roger of Sicily extorted a crown from the anti-pope Anacletus II. The kingdom was a melting pot, with Latins, Greeks, and Arabs living and working cheek by jowl, and this multiculturalism contributed to the administrative, artistic, and cultural flowering of the kingdom during this period. Students taking this module will examine the reigns of the Norman counts, dukes, and kings, examining how they ruled, how they welded the disparate peoples they ruled over into a community, and how they survived the rebellions raised against them on the mainland and on Sicily itself. They will also look at the splendid court of Roger II with its poets and philosophers and consider the contribution this made to European culture as a whole; and they will be introduced to the construction and iconography of the glittering churches at Cefalu, Palermo and Monreale, with their golden mosaics, and the pleasure palaces of La Zisa and La Cuba, both in Palermo, all of them architectural gems that are the most lasting monument of this period of Sicilian history.

Course content

1 and 2. The advent of the Normans and the rule of Robert Guiscard and Roger the Great Count of Sicily, 1000-1112; 3. Roger II: from count to king: 1112-1154; 4. Roger II: The creation of an empire; 5. Reign of William I 'the Bad', 1154-1166; 6. Reign of William II 'the Good', 1166-1189; 7. Court culture and race relations; 8. Administration, law and kingship; 9. The Church; 10. The mosaics of the Norman kingdom: Cefalu, Palermo and Monreale. Students taking the course will study these topics using both primary sources (including the art produced in the kingdom) and the modern historiography.

Assessment Criteria


Excellent students (A- and above) will show strong achievement across all the criteria combined with particularly impressive depths of knowledge and/or subtlety of analysis. In written work, they will support their arguments with a wealth of relevant detail/examples. They will also demonstrate an acute awareness of the relevant historiography and give an account of why the conclusions reached are important within a particular historical debate. They may show a particularly subtle approach to possible objections, nuancing their argument in the light of counter-examples, or producing an interesting synthesis of various contrasting positions. Overall, the standards of content, argument, and analysis expected will be consistently superior to top upper-second work. Standards of presentation will also be high.


Good students (B- to B+) will demonstrate a solid level of achievement and depth of knowledge in all the criteria in the C- to C+ range, and will in addition exhibit constructive engagement with different types of historical writing and historiographical interpretation. Ideas will be communicated effectively and written work will include a good range of sources/reading and demonstrate a clear understanding of the issues and of the existing interpretations expressed in a well-structured, relevant, and focused argument. Students at the top end of this band will engage with and critique the ideas that they come across, and synthesise the various interpretations they find to reach their own considered conclusions. Written work will be correctly presented with references and bibliography where appropriate.

C- to C+

Students in this band (C- to C+) will demonstrate a satisfactory range of achievement or depth of knowledge of most parts of the module, and will make successful, if occasionally inconsistent, attempts to develop those skills appropriate to the study of History at undergraduate level. In the case of the written assessments, the answers will attempt to focus on the question, although might drift into narrative, and will show some evidence of solid reading and research. The argument might lose direction and might not be adequately clear at the bottom of this category. Written work will be presented reasonably well with only limited errors in grammar, punctuation, and referencing, and not to the extent that they obscure meaning.


Threshold students (D- and D) will have done only a minimum of reading, and their work will often be based partly on lecture notes and/or basic textbooks. They will demonstrate in their written assessments some knowledge of at least parts of the relevant field, and will make at least partially-successful attempts to frame an argument which engages with historical controversies, but they will fail to discuss some large and vital aspects of a topic; and/or deploy only some relevant material but partly fail to combine it into a coherent whole; and/or deploy some evidence to support individual points but often fail to do so and/or show difficulty weighing evidence (thereby relying on unsuitable or irrelevant evidence when making a point). Alternatively or additionally, the presentation of the work might also be poor, with bad grammar and/or punctuation, careless typos and spelling errors, and a lack of effective and correct referencing.

Learning outcomes

  1. Demonstrate a knowledge of the key primary sources for the topic/s and of their authors' agendas, as well as a knowledge of their strengths weaknesses.

  2. Illustrate a detailed knowledge of specific aspects of the period and subject.

  3. Demonstrate a wide-ranging knowledge of the kingdom of Sicily between 1130 and 1189.

  4. Synthesize historical arguments about long-term developments in the kingdom (in degree essays); and present detailed historical arguments about specific aspects of the period and subject (in the exam).

  5. Judge between the alternative historical interpretations of the period, including current historiographic positions.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
ESSAY Degree Essay

Essays are a test of a student’s ability to research a topic; to analyse material and understand different interpretations of the past; to produce clear, evidence-based and properly referenced historical argument; and to organise their time so that the essay is submitted by the deadline. Degree essays should be the result of considerable reading and research and of time spent considering historical argument. Little credit will be given for work which simply repeats lectures or basic textbooks. The essays and their bibliographies will be expected to show evidence of wide reading (including journal articles and monographs). The argument of the work is expected to show independent judgement and engagement with any relevant historiographical debates—and to include references in the form of footnotes to the same. Essays should be word-processed and well-presented.

In addition, each essay should include a short section of c. 300 words on what skills and experience the student has developed when writing the essay that would be useful to future employers.

EXAM Pre-seen exam

The examination is a test of a student’s ability to bring together a range of historical information within a limited period of time; to select the material relevant to making specific arguments; and to construct arguments quickly and flexibly. As students will have to prepare for the exam in advance of the release date if they want to ensure access to all relevant materials, the exam is also a test of time-management and organization. Students will answer two essay-type questions.


Teaching and Learning Strategy


Ten x one-hour seminars in small groups of around ten to twelve students


Two x one-hour lecture weekly for ten weeks

Private study

Including reading before and after lectures, preparing for seminars, and researching for essays and exams. This time spent in private study is essential if you are going to succeed at this module.


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others

Subject specific skills

  • problem solving to develop solutions to understand the past
  • understanding the complexity of change over time; in specific contexts and chronologies
  • being sensitive to the differences, or the "otherness" of the past, and the difficulty to using it as a guide to present or future action
  • producing logical and structured arguments supported by relevant evidence
  • planning, designing, executing and documenting a programme of research, working independently
  • marshalling and critically appraising other people's arguments, including listening and questioning
  • demonstrating a positive and can-do approach to practical problems
  • presenting effective oral presentations for different kinds of audiences, including academic and/or audiences with little knowledge of history
  • preparing effective written communications for different readerships
  • making effective and appropriate use of relevant information technology
  • making critical and effective use of information retrieval skills using paper-based and electronic resources
  • appreciating and being sensitive to different cultures and dealing with unfamiliar situations
  • critical evaluation of one's own and others' opinions
  • engaging with relevant aspects of current agendas such as global perspectives, public engagement, employability, enterprise, and creativity


Resource implications for students

The purchase of one or two textbooks

Talis Reading list

Reading list

Primary sources: Roger II and the Creation of the Kingdom of Sicily, trans. G. Loud (Manchester, 2012); G.A. Loud & T.E.J.Wiedemann, The History of the Tyrants of Sicily by 'Hugo Falcandus', 1153–69, (Manchester, 1998); Geoffrey Malaterra, The deeds of Count Roger of Calabria and Sicily and of his brother Duke Robert Guiscard and of his Brother Robert Guiscard, trans. Kenneth Baxter Wolf (2005); Amatus of Montecassino, History of the Normans, trans. by G.A. Loud & P. Dunbar (Woodbridge, 2004)

Key secondary sources: G.A. Loud, The Age of Robert Guiscard : Southern Italy and the Norman Conquest (London, 2000); D. Matthew, The Norman Kingdom of Sicily (Cambridge, 1992); J. J. Norwich, The Normans in the South, 1016-1130 (London, 1967) and The Kingdom in the Sun, 1130-1194; (London, 1970), both republished in The Normans in Sicily (London, 1992); H. Houben, Roger II of Sicily: A Ruler between East and West, trans. G. A. Loud and D. Milburn (Cambridge, 2002); I. S. Robinson The Papacy 1073–1198: Continuity and Innovation (Cambridge, 1990); D.S.H. Abulafia, 'The Norman Kingdom of Africa and the Norman expeditions to Majorca and the Muslim Mediterranean', Anglo-Norman Studies, 7 (1984), 26–49; The Society of Norman Italy, ed. G.A. Loud & A. Metcalfe (2002); J. Johns, The Royal Diwan: Arabic Administration and Norman Kingship (2002)

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: