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 2

Organiser: Dr Mark Hagger

Overall aims and purpose

This module looks at the history of Europe from the fall of the western Roman Empire in c. 476 to the end of the Carolingian dynasty in 987. This takes in the 'Age of Migrations' which saw Celtic tribes like the Franks and Vandals sweep across Europe, and then south into Africa and north into Britain; the creation of a new Europe based on Roman foundations; and the creation of a new emperor in the form of Charlemagne. This was also a time when Europe fell victim to new enemies: in 711 the Muslims invaded Spain and destroyed the Visigothic kingdom, while to the north Vikings raided and then settled parts of England, Ireland and France. This course will examine political, social, and economic aspects of the history of Europe during this turbulent period, paying particular attention to the primary sources, and also to some of the more recent historiography (such as the Pirenne thesis).

Course content

  1. The fall of the western Roman empire; 2. The foundation of the `barbarian┬┐ kingdoms; 3. Merovingians and Carolingians; 4. Charlemagne; 5. The papacy and monasticism; 6. Justinian and the Byzantine revival; 7. Culture and society; 8. Towns and economy; 9. The Vikings and the foundation of Normandy; 10. The birth of Islam and the creation of the caliphate of Cordoba. Students taking the course will study these topics using both primary sources (such as Gregory of Tours, Paul the Deacon, Einhard┬┐s Life of Charlemagne) and the modern historiography.

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 kingdom of Sicily between 1130 and 1189.

  2. 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).

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

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

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
Degree Essay 50
take home exam 50

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.