This Course is Expired

Vikings: Raiders, Traders and Settlers

This course uses recent findings from archaeology to examine varied aspects of the Viking world.
University of Oxford University Offices Wellington Square Oxford ,OX1 2JD United Kingdom
(4418) 65270000

Course at a Glance

Mode of learning : Online - Instructor Lead(LVC)

Domain / Subject : General/Others

Function : General

Starts on : 29th Sep 2014

Duration : 10 Weeks

Difficulty : Advanced

About the course

Ravagers, despoilers, pagans, heathens - the Vikings are usually regarded as bloodthirsty seafaring pirates, whose impact on Europe was one of fear and terror. As they plundered the British Isles and the north Atlantic, these pagan invaders were seen by their Christian victims as a visitation from God.

Yet the Vikings were also traders, settlers and farmers with a highly developed artistic culture and legal system. Their network of trade routes stretching from Greenland to Byzantium and their settlements, resulted in the creation of the Duchy of Normandy in France, the foundation of the Kingdom of Russia in Kiev and Novgorod as well as the development of Irish towns including Cork, Dublin and Limerick. 

This course will use recent findings from archaeology together with documentary records, to examine these varied aspects of the Viking world and to give a detailed and balanced view of this fascinating period. A wide variety of online resources including Google Maps and Google Earth as well as specific Viking web pages, are used in conjunction with text books and specially designed online interactive media to create an exciting insight into the world of the Vikings.

Course Aim

  • illustrate how archaeological evidence is recovered, processed and analysed and how this evidence can be used together with other sources of information to aid our understanding of the world of the Vikings;
  • examine the main factors that led to the Viking expansion, the structure of society in the Viking homelands and the activities of the Vikings as raiders and pirates, traders and settlers consider current opinions on the nature of the impact of the Vikings on medieval Europe;
  • consider current opinions on the nature of the impact of the Vikings on medieval Europe.

Course Objectives

  • evaluate archaeological evidence and use it together with other types of evidence to construct a detailed picture of the Viking period;
  • describe the main reasons for the Viking expansion and the major developments during the Viking period;
  • communicate their own ideas about the impact of the Vikings on medieval Europe and contribute to current debates about the Viking period.

Assessment methods

Assessment for this course is based on two written assignments - one short assignment due half way through the course and one longer assignment due at the end of the course. Students will have about two weeks to complete each assignment.


This course is accredited and you are expected to take the course for credit. To be awarded credit you must complete written contributions satisfactorily. Successful students will receive credit, awarded by the Board of Studies of Oxford University Department for Continuing Education. The award will take the form of 5 units of transferable credit at FHEQ level 4 of the Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS). A transcript detailing the credit will be issued to successful students. Assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail

Teaching methods

  • Introductory text from website with links to external sites
  • Guided reading from set text and case studies
  • Debate on a proposed topic (asynchronous discussion)
  • Occasional tutorial sheets

Teaching outcomes

  • the importance of archaeological evidence in understanding the Viking period;
  • the nature of pre-Viking Scandinavia and the main factors that caused the Viking expansion; 
  • the social and political structure of Viking age Scandinavia; 
  • the role of the Vikings in Europe and northern Atlantic and the pagan religions and the conversion to Christianity;
  • current thinking on the nature of the Viking period.

Course eligibility

Course Requirements

This course is delivered online; to participate you must to be familiar with using a computer for purposes such as sending email and searching the Internet. You will also need regular access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification.

Recommended reading

To participate in the course you will need to have regular access to the Internet and you will need to buy the following books:

  • Forte, O., Oram, R., & Pedersen, F., Viking Empires(Cambridge University Press, 2005) ISBN 0521829925
  • Hayward, J., The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Vikings (Penguin Books, London, 1995) ISBN 0140513280
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Course Content

The areas you will cover in this course are:

  • The origins of the Vikings in Scandinavia 
  • The beginnings of the Viking age
  • Early raids in Europe 
  • Conquest and settlement in Europe
  • Western expansion to Faeroes, Orkney, Shetland and Iceland
  • Trade routes to the east from the Baltic to Constantinople
  • Further west to Greenland and Vinland 
  • Pagan religions and the change to Christianity
  • Viking art and literature 
  • The end of the Viking period


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Key features

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