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Unit information: Early Medieval Britain and Ireland in 2015/16

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Unit name Early Medieval Britain and Ireland
Unit code ARCH20007
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Prior
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Anthropology and Archaeology
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

This seminar based subject will examine the archaeological evidence for the evolution of economy, settlements, institutions and society between AD400 - 1100. No attempt will be made at narrative history, but rather the broad changes will be examined thematically, covering areas such as trade, settlement evolution, the Church, and kingship. A related theme will be the unity of social processes to be found in both Britain and Ireland during this period, and how the archaeologies and histories have been separated through national agendas. Britain and Ireland will therefore be compared throughout the course, to produce an overview of the 'People of the Isles'.

Intended Learning Outcomes

At the end of this unit a successful student will be able to:

  1. Describe the archaeology of Early Medieval Britain and Ireland and provide an historical outlinbe of the period within the British archipelago.
  2. Recognise the archaeologies of economy, settlement, social organisation and religion.
  3. Discuss the problems of using archaeological evidence to interpret proto-historic societies, documented by fragmentary historical evidence.
  4. Explain the complex processes of change in the British Isles through archaeological, geographical and historical evidence between AD 400 - 1100
  5. Explain the role of national and religious agendas in the interpretation of the archaeological evidence.
  6. Summarise the European context of early Medieval Britain and Ireland - especially in the areas of ling distance trade and the spread of Christianity
  7. Discuss the complexities and limitations of the archaeological record as an analytical tool.
  8. Assess and evaluate the latest theories and debates surrounding the study of early medieval archaeology, the growth of settlement and economy, and the development of social organisation and religion.
  9. Synthesise evidence from a wide range of sources, both historical and archaeological.
  10. Appraise the quality and reliability of the various datasets available for studying the Early Medieval period.

Teaching Information



One 6-hour fieldtrip

Assessment Information

One 2000 word essay (50%). Assesses ILOs 1,4,6,8,9,10

One 30 minute assessed seminar (25%). Assesses ILOs 2,3,5,7,8,9,10

One Seminar Presentation Hand-out (25%). Assesses ILOs 1,2,8,9,10

Reading and References

Blair, J. 2005. The Church in Anglo-Saxon Society. Oxbow:Oxford

Carver, M. 1992. THe Age of Sutton Hoo.Boydell Press: Woodbridge

Colgrave, B. & Mynors, R. 1979 Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People. Oxford:Clarendon

Edwards, N. 1996 The Archaeology of Early Medieval Ireland. Batsford:London.

Laing, L. 2006. The Archaeology of Celtic Britain & Ireland c. AD 400-1200. CUP: Cambridge

Hamerow, H. 2004. Early Medieval Settlements: The Archaeology of Rural Communities in North-West Europe 400-900. OUP: Oxford

Heaney, S. 1999. Beowulf: a new translation. London: Faber

Swanton, M. 2000. Anglo-Saxon Chronicles. Phoenix: London.

Yorke, B. 1997. Kings and Kingdoms of Early Anglo-Saxon England. Routledge: London