The Viking Age c.790-1066
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Delivery guides are designed to represent a body of knowledge about teaching a particular topic and contain:
- Content: a clear outline of the content covered by the delivery guide;
- Thinking Conceptually: expert guidance on the key concepts involved, common difficulties students may have, approaches to teaching that can help students understand these concepts and how this topic links conceptually to other areas of the subject;
- Thinking Contextually: a range of suggested teaching activities using a variety of themes so that different activities can be selected that best suit particular classes, learning styles or teaching approaches.
|Thematic Study: The Viking Age c.790–1066|
Learners should have studied the following:
|Viking society, administration and livelihood||Viking identity; Scandinavian land and climate; Scandinavian society (including slaves, the free, women, children, elites and rules of conduct); Scandinavian administration; accession to the throne and personal power; royal power (kingship); political developments in Denmark, Norway and Sweden; Scandinavian livelihood (including trade, developments in shipbuilding, seafaring, money, farming, hunting and craft-working).|
|Warfare and raids||Raids on England and Scotland; motives for raids; the destruction of monasteries (including Lindisfarne and Iona); the stimulus for Scottish unity; and the 860s as a possible turning point; Alfred’s and Athelstan’s response to raids; relative peace after 955; the ‘second Viking age’ and Danegeld; conquest; decline and fall; expansionism: motives (economic, political and social); raiding and trading in Ireland, Wales, the Isle of Man, the Carolingian Empire (including Normandy and Brittany), Russia, Byzantium, Iceland and Greenland.|
|Settlements||Scandinavian rural and urban settlements; English rural and urban settlements (including York); the Danelaw; kingship; the impact of settlements on livelihood (including farming, craft working, trade); society (including social structure, families, kinship and customs); the move towards a united English kingdom; settlements in Western and Eastern Europe including parts of the Carolingian Empire and the Iberian Peninsula.|
|Culture and religion||Religious belief; old religion, the gods (including Odin, Thor, Frey and the Norns), outdoor worship (including ship-settings), sacrificial sites, burial customs; new religion: Christianisation (including the conversion of Harald Bluetooth and Denmark c.965, Harald’s Jelling monuments, the conversion of Olaf Tryggvason and Norway c.995), new rituals and codes of conduct; culture: art (decorative and pictorial), language, writing (including runes), and naming customs; poetry and its purpose (including rune poems, eddaic poems and skaldic verse), sagas; dress, jewellery; feasting.|
Learners should be aware of debates surrounding the issues outlined for each in-depth topic:
|Raids on England in the late eighth and ninth centuries||Motives; the impact on Anglo-Saxon politics, the economy, culture and society (including religious belief); the significance of the 860s (‘a great heathen army’); the response to raids; the first settlements.|
|The Danelaw||Definitions, origins (links with raids); organisation; growth; response from Anglo-Saxons (relationships between inhabitants and colonists); the impact on the northern and eastern economy, society (the creation of a distinctive Viking society), culture, religion and politics; the importance of York.|
|The Vikings in Ireland||Motives for raiding, trading and settlement; phases of involvement and links to Viking activity elsewhere; the impact on the Irish economy (including trade), society (including religion), culture and politics; areas of settlement (including the origins and growth of Viking Dublin).|
A study of the Viking age between 750 and 1066 will require a chronological teaching approach that illustrates the developments throughout the Viking age in the respective parts of the curriculum content. At the beginning of each sub-topic, either themed or depth, students need to be grounded in the context of the time not only in the Viking homelands but also in the European states that surrounded them. As the course is taught, it would be useful to link the sub-topics together to help with understanding and deepen knowledge; it would be useful to firstly teach the sub-topics in order to help achieve this. Once students have a strong understanding of Viking society, religion, culture and economy pre-expansion, the focus can be on how this continued or developed during the course of the Viking expansion into Europe and beyond. As this topic is covered broadly, a study of key individuals and events as turning points will add complexity allowing opportunities to incorporate Depth Studies at suitable points.
Common misconceptions or difficulties students may have:
Common difficulties students may encounter come in understanding the context of the time. To help aid this and enable students to gain a better understanding of the context of the time, students need to know that Europe was made up of small independent squabbling states and was not as centralised as it has been since the turn of the century. Communication was poor and knowledge of the world was limited and due to this, concepts such as nationalism, religious freedom, and equality were almost non-existent. Scandinavia was far more progressive, in so far as, women enjoyed grater freedoms compared to their European counterparts and Viking society had an established and widespread autonomous class known as Yarls (similar to yeoman of the later middle ages). However, this class was hierarchical and had slaves and serfs as well as elites in its function. Students will need to recognise that loyalties lay with those in the local community and to the chieftain as opposed to any notion of country and nation. Moreover, because religion was not centralised and had no influence over political decisions on the scale that Christianity did on western powers, there was also no constricting loyalty to organised religion. Therefore, students cannot really use much of the prior knowledge of medieval Europe to help them to understand Viking society.
Conceptual links to other areas of the specification – useful ways to approach this topic to set students up for topics later in the course:
Due to the period being so unique in history students won’t directly have any historical backdrop from which to reference. However, their knowledge of second order historical concepts and enquiry skills should come into developing and understanding and aid the learning within the classroom. A wealth of excellent resources is available online which can be used for prior reading; documentaries on sites such as YouTube are also helpful. These can be adopted and adapted according to the pace of the course.
This page introduces students to the main concepts of Viking society. Sub-groups of society could be mind-mapped and students could think of a statement to best sum up the society. From this a “how far” question could be constructed. This could be peer assessed.
This activity is intended introduce students to the topic and provide a generalised factual overview. The aim is to consolidate understanding of the ‘bigger picture’ in order to provoke contextual thinking before embarking on detailed studies of each theme topic.
Students create a profile of achievements and failures of the following Kings:
- Harald Finehair
- Olaf Tryggvason
- Olaf Skotkonung
- Harald Bluetooth
Students can create a class debate on which Viking King had the most and least impact. Students can then summarise the concept of Viking kingship and how this developed through the age.
This can help build an overview of the development of Viking kingship.
Using the timeline, students select key events in the history of viking raiding and then summarise how patterns of raiding developed overtime. Students can use the second website to add to their timeline.
This activity is intended to support introductory reading which is supplemented with basic timelines, maps and visual material. It encourages students to gain a generalised factual overview. The aim is to consolidate understanding of the ‘bigger picture’ in order to provoke contextual thinking before embarking on detailed studies of each theme in the topic.
Students can use these two websites to chart the development of Viking raids in England. From this, students can identify the key turning points in the raiding and decide on two overall statements which support and contradict their findings. Students can then write an argument for either interpretation.
Two websites which give timelines, maps and images to help students gain an understanding of the pattern and development of raids throughout the period.
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