Skip to main content
KBS_Icon_questionmark link-ico

A World History of the Vikings

Key information

  • Module code:


  • Level:


  • Semester:


  • Credit value:


Module description

Between the eighth and the eleventh centuries, Viking adventurers sailed from Scandinavia and made their way all over Europe and beyond, from Kiev to Newfoundland, and from the Barents Sea to Morocco. This was both a profoundly unpredictable event and a deeply significant turning-point. Nearly everywhere they brought about huge change, as existing inhabitants and polities adjusted to their presence, at first intermittent, then more sustained, and had to change their habits and expectations accordingly. In Britain and Ireland they founded colonies and towns like York or Dublin. In Francia they were attackers, allies and settlers. In Constantinople they became the Varangians, an elite troop of imperial bodyguards. In the Baltic and Russia they traded along the river system, above all in slaves transported along trade routes ranging as far as Baghdad and the Samanid empire in Afghanistan. This course follows them on their long tour, and looks at their increasingly complicated entanglements with the societies they encountered along their way. At least half of each class will be devoted to close reading of primary source extracts, including later Icelandic sagas, rune stones, annals, saints’ lives, and accounts of Arab travelers. 

Assessment details

 x 1,500-word formative essay;  1 x 3,000-word essay (100%)

Learning outcomes

This module aims to introduce students to a period of profound social, cultural and political change

associated with Viking activity across the Northern World between 750 and 1100. It will enable students to build on and refine the knowledge of the period acquired through taking the level 4 course on "Medieval Worlds", though it will be taught in a way that is accessible to students with no background in the period.

The module will also:

  • - Provide a broad chronological overview of Viking activity and its political, cultural, economic and
  • geopolitical impact across the Northern World from the 8th century to the 11th.
  • - Familiarise students to the historiography on the period, which has evolved rapidly since the 1960s, and is now replete with engaging controversy.
  • - Introduce students to a wide range of written, linguistic, and archaeological evidence which bear on the
  • period, and to the specific problems of interpretation they pose.
  • - Develop and deepen students understanding of the effects of human diasporas generally, and of the scale and impact of migration, ethnic change, and cultural interaction during the Viking Age in particular.

By the end of this module, students should be able to demonstrate intellectual, transferable and practicable skills appropriate to a Level 5 module, and in particular the ability to:

  • - Respond to the subject in a systematic, thematically sensitive way, demonstrating an ability to make points and connections spanning the whole timeframe and geographic coverage of the module.
  • - Formulate coherent written and oral responses to the issues, themes, concepts and debates covered by
  • the module, using the comparative method where relevant and appropriate to deepen their understanding of the period. More particularly, they should be able to demonstrate an ability to:
  • - Place Viking activity within the wider context of the Viking age more generally, formulating a view on the origins and stimuli for the Scandinavian diaspora.
  • - Register the distinction between different phases and modes of Viking activity, and demonstrate a broad understanding of the chronological shape of the period, with gathering intensity of activity at different places at different times.
  • - Appreciate the problems inherent in estimating the scale of Viking activity in different regions of Eurasia.
  • - Show familiarity with the key primary sources for the period, including annals and historical writing, lawcodes, place-name and other linguistic evidence, coins and archaeology.
  • - Formulate coherent arguments with respect to the relative impact of the Vikings and local populations on one another, and the extent of contact, accommodation, exchange and cultural emulation in different parts of Eurasia.

Teaching pattern

20 x 1-hour lecture + 20 x 1-hour seminars

(or 20 x 2-hour seminars if only one group)

Subject areas


Module description disclaimer

King’s College London reviews the modules offered on a regular basis to provide up-to-date, innovative and relevant programmes of study. Therefore, modules offered may change. We suggest you keep an eye on the course finder on our website for updates.

Please note that modules with a practical component will be capped due to educational requirements, which may mean that we cannot guarantee a place to all students who elect to study this module.

Please note that the module descriptions above are related to the current academic year and are subject to change.