BA Film Studies and History

Year of entry: 2022

Course unit details:
Europe from the Vikings to the Crusades: Violence, Acculturation and Group Formation

Unit code HIST21141
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by History
Available as a free choice unit? No


In the late eighth century, Scandinavians – known today as ‘Vikings’ – made a violent entrance onto the wider European stage. Although their tactics were no more bloody than those of their Christian counterparts, their lack of Christian religion and, in particular, their attacks on Christian religious centres struck fear into the hearts of Christian authors, who conceptualized their new adversaries as fulfilling a Biblical prophecy of a mighty army coming from the far north. Yet far from fulfilling this semi-apocalyptic vision, Scandinavians gradually acculturated to European society, creating new polities, whether duchies or kingdoms, ruled over by Christianized Scandinavian elites. This module will examine the various transformations which engulfed Europe between the ninth and twelfth centuries, both generally and through the case study of a group of Scandinavians who came to be known as ‘Normans’. The group formation of the Normans – whose group identity emphasized both their newly-assumed ethnicity and their Christian observance – can be traced to the time of their settlement in Normandy (in northern France). They subsequently expanded to rule over Italy, England, and Sicily, presiding over centralizing monarchies. European society was changing: alongside such reinvigorated monarchies, Christian structures were undergoing a transformation of their own. Monastic reform, the rising power of the papacy and changes in church doctrine – particularly the development of notions of holy war – reshaped the bounds within which violence could be exercised. The ensuing changes would see European groups (including Normans) setting out on the Crusades to dispense what their Western European contemporaries viewed as exemplary and just violence. How much had the expectations of legitimate violence changed since the first Viking age? And how far can we see the acculturation of European crusaders with local Islamic and Eastern Orthodox Christian populations in the newly-formed Latin Christian states of the Middle East? Finally, to what extent did the European encounters with Islamic societies on the Crusades be linked to the so-called twelfth-century ‘Renaissance’ and the revival of learning?


HIST21141 is restricted to History programmes, History joint honours programmes and Classics and Ancient History programmes. (please check your programme structures for further details).

This module is only available to students on History-owned programmes; Euro Studies programmes; History joint honours programmes owned by other subject areas; and CLAH-owned programmes.


  • To enable students to understand how Europe changed over the course of the period c.800-c.1100.
  • To understand how historians have constructed conflicting versions of historical change.
  • To analyse processes of historical change in the light of contemporary source materials.
  • To prepare students for further specialization in medieval history at level 3.


Knowledge and understanding

  • Understand how Europe changed in this period.
  • Understand why historians have differed in their interpretation of the Viking impact and its aftermath
  • Understand how Europe recovered and how a rising tide of religious enthusiasm and increasing economic activity led to a violent encounter between Latin Christendom and Islam known as the Crusades.

Intellectual skills

  • Evaluate different historical and historiographical viewpoints.
  • Read, interpret, and analyse a range of primary source materials.
  • Know how to approach the unfamiliar in order to further understand cultural difference.

Practical skills

  • Essay writing
  • Formulate critically analytical interpretation           .
  • Autonomous research
  • Search for and retrieve information from a variety of sources.
  • Harmonize material of different genres and from different cultural backgrounds

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Work collaboratively as part of a team
  • Present arguments and interpretations in written and verbal forms
  • Organise and present information clearly and concisely
  • Empathize with the unfamiliar and appreciate cultures far removed from modern forms
  • Critical thinking and analysis

Employability skills

¿ Convey complex ideas concisely via written and verbal communication skills ¿ Collaboration in team settings ¿ Acting autonomously and take leadership and responsibility (through independent learning, seminar preparation and contribution, assessment activities) ¿ Critical thinking and analysis ¿ Data handling

Assessment methods

Assessment task

Formative or Summative

Weighting within unit (if summative)

Seminar Exercises



Source analysis






Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Oral feedback in seminar discussions and also via communication through online discussion boards    


Written feedback on coursework submissions via Turnitin      


Additional one-to-one feedback (during office hour or by appointment)


Recommended reading

  • Elisabeth  van Houts, The Normans in Europe (Manchester, 2000)
  • Simon Franklin and Jonathan Shepard, The Emergence of Rus 750-1200 (London, 1996)
  • Nicholas Higham and Martin Ryan, The Anglo-Saxon World (New Haven, 2013)
  • R. I. Moore, The First European Revolution, c. 970–1215 (Oxford, 2000)
  • Carole Hillenbrand, The Crusades: Islamic Perspectives (Edinburgh, 1999)

  • Jonathan Riley-Smith, The First Crusade and the Idea of Crusading (London, 2009)
  • Leonie Hicks, The Normans: A Short History (London, 2016)

  • Robert Bartlett, The Making of Europe (London, 1993)
  • Pauline Stafford, Unification and Co

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Charles Insley Unit coordinator

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