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Module HGH-3127:
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 general module aims to satisfy one of the benchmark requirements of a History degree by looking at a long period of history in order to discern trends and developments. In this case, 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.

Course content

  1. The fall of the western Roman empire; 2. The foundation of the `barbarianÂż 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 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


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

  2. Demonstrate a wide-ranging knowledge of the history of Europe during the early middle ages.

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

  4. Set out and judge between the alternative historical interpretations of the period, including current historiographic positions.

  5. Use primary sources as an integral part of historical argument.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
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 see the exam paper 48 hours before you sit the exam. The exam will last TWO hours and you must answer TWO questions.

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 on Turnitin, and should be word-processed and well-presented. They must include a full bibliography and proper references. 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.


Teaching and Learning Strategy


Two x one-hour lectures every week for ten weeks

Private study

Including reading around lectures, preparing for seminars, and undertaking research for essays and exams


One x one-hour seminar every week for ten weeks, usually beginning in the second week of the 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.
  • 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

The purchase of one or two 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

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: