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Last modified: 27 Feb 2018 10:32

Course Overview

This course explores the changing cultures of the early mediaeval North, especially the cultural history and literatures of Britain and Ireland between the Anglo-Saxon settlement of south Britain and the Norman invasions half a millennium later. These islands were a cultural and ethnic melting-pot between Celtic and Germanic peoples, as seen through a rich body of texts: heroic poems, historical narratives, law-texts, family trees, letters and outlaw-legends. In lectures and small-group tutorials, we explore the diverse forms of social organisation which emerged, and we examine how these peoples interacted with each other: from sex to violence and everything in between.

Course Details

Study Type Undergraduate Level 1
Session Second Sub Session Credit Points 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits)
Campus None. Sustained Study No
  • Professor Ralph O'Connor

Qualification Prerequisites


What courses & programmes must have been taken before this course?

  • Either Programme Level 1 or Programme Level 2
  • Any Undergraduate Programme (Studied)

What other courses must be taken with this course?


What courses cannot be taken with this course?


Are there a limited number of places available?


Course Description

This course will provide an introduction to the changing cultures of the early mediaeval North, especially as seen through the prism of interaction and comparison between the Germanic and Insular Celtic peoples. The course will be intercultural and interdisciplinary, designed to engage students with interests in language, history, law or literature. The main focus of the course will be on the practice of law and the structures of kingship and society among the Anglo-Saxon and Insular Celtic peoples, as seen through a range of primary sources from law-texts and genealogies to heroic sagas and poetry. Among the specific topics covered will be hierarchies of kingship, the relation between the king and his warriors, the relation between secular and ecclesiastical authorities, outlaws and robber-barons (including Finn and Arthur), matriliny and polygamy, the uses of the legendary past and interactions between Celtic and English legal systems.

Further Information & Notes

This course will be available in 2017/18, and is available to all Level 1 students in any degree programme, and all visiting students.

Degree Programmes for which this Course is Prescribed

  • Celtic Joint
  • MA Celtic and Anglo-Saxon Studies

Contact Teaching Time

33 hours

This is the total time spent in lectures, tutorials and other class teaching.

Teaching Breakdown


1st Attempt: 1 two-hour written examination (60%), an essay of approx. 2,000 words, including references but excluding bibliography (30%), and tutorial participation (10%) Resit: 1 two-hour written examination (100%)

Formative Assessment

Discussion of students' progress in writing and participation will be provided in scheduled individual meetings and/or in the instructor's office hours.


Written assessments are given CAS marks, and written feedback is communicated to students using the School of Language and Literature essay cover sheets. Feedback will also be provided in scheduled individual meetings and/or in the instructor's office hours. Students are given weekly feedback in the form of advice delivered verbally in class, both to individuals and to the whole class.

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