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Module HGW-3008:
The Heroic Age

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

The centuries which separate the end of Roman rule and the arrival of the Normans was a period of dramatic and formative developments in the making of the nations and peoples of the British Isles. This module sets out to explore the fortunes of the Britons of western Britain, and in particular those of Wales, during this period of great transformation. In the course of this survey of the early history of Wales you will study key themes such as the end of Roman Britain, the emergence of regional kingdoms, the impact and interaction with Irish, Anglo-Saxon, Viking and Norman neighbours, the ideological triumph of Christianity, and the nature of society in early medieval Wales. This module is thus broad in chronological terms, spanning more than seven centuries, and extensive in its geographical range, taking us from the central belt of modern-day Scotland down the western coast of Britain and over the Celtic Sea to Brittany.

Course content

This is an indicative list of the themes explored by this module: Themes and problems in the history of early medieval Wales; Late-Roman Wales and the end of the Western Roman Empire; Gildas and the Emergence of Kingdoms; Lands and Languages in western Britain and Brittany; The Britons and the Northumbrians; The Welsh and the rise of Mercia; Merfyn Frych and the Merfynion; Wales and the Vikings; Hywel the Good: King of Wales?; The eleventh century: new dynasties; The Welsh Church in the pre-Norman era; Early Welsh society; The arrival of the Normans; Wales in the age of Henry I; The Normanization of Wales.

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.


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.

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.


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.

Learning outcomes

  1. Demonstrate a wide-ranging knowledge of the history of Wales during the period c.400-1135.

  2. Present clear, evidence-based historical arguments on aspects of the subject.

  3. Evaluate historical arguments about long-term developments and the module’s key themes.

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

  5. Interpret primary sources in a critical fashion in order to analyse aspects of the subject.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
ESSAY Essay 3,000 words 60
EXAM Pre-released exam (2 hrs)

A pre-released examination is one where the examination questions are released to the students before the examination date. Students then prepare their answers before writing them in a formal invigilated examination environment.


Teaching and Learning Strategy

Private study

Devoting time to reading an array of books and articles in preparation for classes and assignments is of the utmost importance. As full-time students, you should spend a minimum of 3-4 hours a week preparing for each seminar/workshop. This will be to your advantage when it comes to revision and writing essays. Independent learning also demonstrates strong personal motivation, and is a skill which is much valued by employers.


The primary aim of the workshops is to explore particular issues and debates relating to the primary evidence. Preparation for the workshops will focus mainly on reading extracts from the written sources/reports on the archaeological evidence.


The lectures will provide you with knowledge and understanding of the key themes and issues covered by this module. They will also direct you to relevant primary sources and provide an overview of the historiography. As no lecture can be expected to cover every detail of a topic, their ultimate purpose is to act as a starting point for furthering your own private study.


The primary aim of the seminars is to generate debate and discussion. Students will be given an opportunity to discuss topics or issues introduced by the lectures, along with related themes, perhaps not directly addressed by the lectures, but drawing on the wider guidance for reading provided in the module's handbook. Preparation for seminars will focus on specific themes and scholarly debates, with students preparing answers to questions provided in this handbook.


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • 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
  • 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


Resource implications for students


Reading list

Alcock, L., Economy, society and warfare among the Britons and Saxons (Cardiff, 1987). Carpenter, D., The Struggle for Mastery: The Penguin History of Britain 1066–1284 (London, 2003; pbk 2004). Carr, A. D., Medieval Wales (1995). Charles-Edwards, T. M., ‘Language and society among the insular Celts, 400–1000’, in M. J. Green (ed.), The Celtic World (1995). Charles-Edwards, T. M., ‘The making of nations in Britain and Ireland in the early middle ages’, in R. Evans (ed.), Lordship and Learning: Studies in Memory of Trevor Aston (2004), Ch. 1. Charles-Edwards, T. M., Wales and the Britons, 350–1064 (Oxford, 2013). Charles-Edwards, Thomas (ed.), After Rome (Oxford, 2003). Cleary, S. Esmond, The ending of Roman Britain (London, 1989). Dark, K. R., Britain and the End of the Roman Empire (Stroud, 2000). Davies, J., History of Wales (London, 1990). Davies, R. R., Domination and Conquest: The Experience of Ireland, Scotland and Wales 1100–1300 (Cambridge, 1990). Davies, R. R., The Age of Conquest: Wales 1063–1415 (Oxford, 1991; new edn 2000). Davies, R. R., The First English Empire: Power and Identities in the British Isles 1093–1343 (Oxford, 2000). Davies, Wendy (ed.), From the Vikings to the Normans (Oxford, 2003). Davies, Wendy, Patterns of Power in Early Wales (Oxford, 1990). Davies, Wendy, Wales in the Early Middle Ages (Leicester, 1982). Fleming, Robin, Britain after Rome: The Fall and Rise, 400–1070 (London, 2010). Frame, Robin, The Political Development of the British Isles 1100–1400 (Oxford, 1990). Golding, Brian, Conquest and Colonisation: The Normans in Britain, 1066–1100 (1994; 2nd edn 2001). Harvey, Barbara (ed.), The Short Oxford History of the British Isles: The Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries (2001). James, Edward, Britain in the First Millennium (2001), Chs 9–10. Lloyd, J. E., A History of Wales from the Earliest Times to the Edwardian Conquest (2 vols, London, 1911; 3rd edn, 1939). Maund, K. L., ‘“Dark Age” Wales, c. 383–1063’, in Prys Morgan (ed.), The Tempus History of Wales (Stroud, 2001), Ch. 2. Maund, K. L., The Welsh Kings: The Medieval Rulers of Wales (Stroud, 2000). Moore, David, The Welsh Wars of Independence c.410–c.1415 (2005). Pryce, Huw, ‘Frontier Wales, c.1063–1282’, in Prys Morgan (ed.), The Tempus History of Wales (Stroud, 2001), Ch. 3. Rigby, S. H. (ed.), A Companion to Britain in the Later Middle Ages (Malden, MA/Oxford, 2003). Snyder, C. A., An Age of Tyrants: Britain and the Britons, AD 400–600 (London, 1998). Stafford, Pauline (ed.), A Companion to the Early Middle Ages: Britain and Ireland c.500–c.1100 (Malden, MA/Oxford, 2009). Turvey, Roger, The Welsh Princes: The Native Rulers of Wales 1063–1283 (Harlow/London, 2002). Walker, David, Medieval Wales (Cambridge, 1990). Walker, David, The Normans in Britain (1994). Wickham, Chris, Framing the Early Middle Ages: Europe and the Mediterranean, 400–800 (Oxford, 2005). Wickham, Chris, The Inheritance of Rome: A History of Europe from 400 to 1000 (London, 2009).

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: