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Module HGH-2127:
Europe, Early Middle Ages

Module Facts

Run by School of History, Philosophy and Social Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Dr Mark Hagger

Overall aims and purpose

This module looks at the rise of the Franks, from their beginnings as one of the barbarian invaders of the western Roman empire through the coronation of Charles the Great as a new western Emperor by the pope on Christmas Day 800, to the fall of the Carolingians and advent of a new royal line, the Capetians, in 987. On the way, we will review some of the epoch-making events that the Franks would have to confront on their way to ascendancy in the west: the fall of the western Roman Empire, the barbarian invasions, and the rise of Islam. We will look at the Frankish kings and their kingdoms, administration, and culture. We will consider the Viking invasions and their impact. And we will look at changes in society as the Carolingian kings began to lose their authority during the tenth century.

Course content

  1. The foundation of the `barbarian' kingdoms in Italy and France; 2. Justinian and the Byzantine reconquests of Italy and Spain; 3. The rise of Islam and the Caliphate of Cordoba; 4. The papacy and monasticism; 5. Gregory of Tours and Merovingian Francia; 6. Charlemagne; 7. Louis the Pious and Monastic Reform; 8. Carolingian culture and society; 9. The Vikings and the foundation of Normandy; 10. The last Carolingian and the collapse of royal power.

Assessment Criteria


Threshold students (lower 40s) will demonstrate an appropriate range or depth of 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.


Good students (60s) will show a solid level of achievement in all the criteria in the paragraphs above.


Excellent students (70s and above) will show this solid achievement across the criteria combined with particularly impressive depths of knowledge and/or subtlety of analysis.

Learning outcomes

  1. Demonstrate a wide-ranging knowledge of the kingdoms and institutions of Europe in the Early Middle Ages, as well as broad developments and trends

  2. Demonstrate an ability to present detailed historical arguments about specific aspects of the period and subject in an articulate and critical manner.

  3. Synthesize historical arguments about long-term developments either relating to a specific region or across the geographical area studied as a whole, and use that synthesis to help construct detailed and well-researched historical arguments.

  4. Demonstrate an ability to set out an argument using appropriate references, reading, and language.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
ESSAY Degree essay

Essays are a test of your skills to research a topic; to analyse material and understand different interpretations of the past; to produce clear, evidence-based and properly referenced historical argument; to present your findings in good English/Welsh; and your ability to organize your time so that the work is submitted by the deadline. Degree essays are supposed to be the result of considerable reading and research and of time spent considering your 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. REMEMBER that you MUST provide references and a bibliography in the correct format. All essays should be submitted via Turnitin, and should be word-processed and well-presented. All assessed degree essays will be penalized according to University rules if they are handed in after the deadline and you have not arranged an extension.

EXAM Pre-seen examination

Examinations are a test of your ability to bring together a range of historical information; to understand historical questions quickly; to select the material relevant to making specific arguments; and to construct arguments quickly and flexibly. You will have sight of the exam paper 48 hours before you sit the exam. The exam will last TWO hours and you must answer TWO questions.


Teaching and Learning Strategy

Private study

Private study including reading around the topics discussed in lectures, preparing for seminars, and researching for the degree essay.


One x one-hour seminar for ten weeks (usually beginning in the second week of the module)


Two x one-hour lectures for ten weeks


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
  • 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


Resource implications for students

Voluntary purchase of key textbooks.

Reading list

Some useful textbooks: R. Collins, Early Medieval Europe 300-1000, second edition (1999) P. Heather, The Restoration of Rome: Barbarian Popes and Imperial Pretenders (London, 2013) M. Innes, Introduction to Early Medieval Western Europe, 300-900: The Sword, the Plough and the Book (2007) D. Rollason, Early Medieval Europe 300 -1050 (Harlow, 2012) J. M. H. Smith, Europe after Rome: A New Cultural History 500-1000 (2007) J. M. Wallace-Hadrill, The Barbarian West 400-1000, revised edition (1985) C. Wickham, The Inheritance of Rome: A History of Europe from 400 to 1000 (London, 2009)

Courses including this module

Optional in courses: