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Module HSH-3150:
Conquest and Culture

Module Facts

Run by School of History, Philosophy and Social Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Dr Euryn Roberts

Overall aims and purpose

‘One vile Norman’, so lamented one Welsh cleric at the end of the eleventh century, ‘intimidates a hundred natives with his command and terrifies them with his look’. Yet the Anglo-Norman conquest and settlement of much of Wales during the long twelfth century was neither as inevitable nor as unchallenged as this early observer had feared. The story of how Anglo-Norman penetration transformed Wales in the period c.1064-1172 is one of lasting significance: the emergence of urban settlements; extensive peasant colonization; profound ecclesiastical reorganization and changing patterns of religious devotion; and the re-drawing of the political geography and patterns of authority in Wales. These changes were not completely one-sided, for in the process the native Welsh (most notably under Owain Gwynedd (d.1170) and the Lord Rhys (d.1197)) absorbed and exploited the possibilities offered by this western extension of the Anglo-French cultural sphere to consolidate their hold over much of the surface area of Wales. Coexistence and change as well as conquest are therefore key themes of this module. The module aims to acquaint students with the wide range of issues involved during this period of marked change, and to equip them to assess the value of the original sources available for their study and of the interpretations offered by modern historians.

Course content

This module explores the following themes: historiographical approaches and approaching the evidence; Wales in the late-eleventh century; Gruffudd ap Cynan (d. 1137) and the Normans in North Wales; Gruffudd ap Cynan and his twelfth-century biography; medieval Welsh historical writing; the ‘resurgence’ of Powys c.1100-1160; Normans and natives in South Wales c.1070-1135; the making of the Welsh March; royal policy in Wales during the reigns of William I, William Rufus and Henry I; ecclesiastical reform, inc. introduction of Benedictine and Cistercian monasticism; ethnic and national identity in an age of change; conquest and coexistence during the reigns of Owain Gwynedd (d. 1170) and the Lord Rhys (d. 1197); royal policy in Wales, 1135-1172; culture and acculturation in the age of Geoffrey of Monmouth and Gerald of Wales. You will be given an opportunity to focus in-depth on these themes and on the underpinning primary sources in your seminars. Most classes are structured around discussion of primary sources. The first few classes will include lectures intended to give a general introduction to the course.

Assessment Criteria


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.


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.


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.

Learning outcomes

  1. Analyse individual pieces of historical evidence very closely (for example, by setting them in context, judging their qualities as evidence, and explaining their significance).

  2. Judge between competing historical interpretations of the period, including current historiographical positions.

  3. Demonstrate a detailed knowledge of the transformation of Wales during the period c.1070-1170

  4. Demonstrate a close familiarity with a range of primary sources from the late-eleventh and the twelfth century, analyse these sources, and use them in historical argument.

  5. Present clear, evidence-based, and cogent historical arguments under examination conditions.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
EXAM Formal Examination

In the examination paper candidates will have to comment on passages from the primary sources prescribed for the course. Comments will be graded by considering their ability to set passages in context and to analyse how they can help historians understand aspects of the period and/or can be used in historiographic debate. Comments will be expected to demonstrate a precise knowledge of the context of the passage; to focus tightly on the significance of the precise passage set (and not drift into general comment on the document from which it was drawn); to reflect upon their qualities as evidence; and to demonstrate how the source could be used as part of a historical argument (for example how it helps to judge between interpretations).

ESSAY Written assignment

The candidate will be expected to analyse a primary source, or a specific collection of primary sources, in an essay of c.3,000 words. The essay will be graded by considering its content and the scope of reading undertaken (the amount of knowledge shown); the clarity and relevance of the argument; the analysis (the ability to support the argument with evidence and to distinguish between different interpretations); and the presentation and referencing [see the Student Handbook for assessment criteria in these areas]. The essay is expected to demonstrate a thorough knowledge of the source or sources discussed; detailed use of evidence; and, where relevant, to engage with modern historiographical arguments.


Teaching and Learning Strategy


Three 1-hour timetabled drop-in tutorials


1-hour introductory seminar at the start of the module, followed by a series of 2-hour seminars


Lectures will provide an introductory overview to broad themes and topics

Private study

Students must dedicate time to private study whilst enrolled on this module, to build on knowledge gleaned in class, and work on their assignments.


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.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • 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
  • being sensitive to the role of perceptions of the past in contemporary cultures
  • 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
  • demonstrating an innovative approach, creativity, collaboration and risk taking
  • 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
  • collaborating effectively in a team via experience of working in a group
  • 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 library's provision for this module is very good.

Talis Reading list

Reading list

Carr, A. D., Medieval Wales (1995). Davies, R. R., The Age of Conquest: Wales 1063-1415 (1991; new edn 2000). Smith, J. B. and Ll. B., ‘Wales: Politics, Government and Law’, in S. H. Rigby (ed.), A Companion to Britain in the Later Middle Ages (2003), ch. 16. Lloyd, J. E., A History of Wales from the Earliest Times to the Edwardian Conquest, vol. 2 (3rd edn, 1939). Turvey, R., The Welsh Princes: The Native Rulers of Wales 1063-1283 (2002) Maund, K., The Welsh Kings: The Medieval Rulers of Wales (2000). Moore, D., The Welsh Wars of Independence, c.410-c.1415 (2005). Walker, D., Medieval Wales (1990). Williams, G.A., When was Wales? A History of the Welsh (1985). Lieberman, M., The March of Wales 1067-1300: A Borderland of Medieval Britain (2008). Davies, R.R., Domination and Conquest: the experience of Ireland, Scotland and Wales 1100-1300 (1990). Frame, R., The Political Development of the British Isles, 1100-1400 (1990). Davies, R.R., The First English Empire: Power and Identities in the British Isles, 1093-1343 (2000). Carpenter, D., The Struggle for Mastery: The Penguin History of Britain 1066-1284 (2003). Rees, W., An Historical Atlas of Wales (1951).

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses: