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Study information

The Age of AEthelred 'the Unready': Context

Module titleThe Age of AEthelred 'the Unready': Context
Module codeHIH3118
Academic year2022/3
Module staff
Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

The reign of King Æthelred ‘the Unready’ (978-1016) was a turning point in English history. Although often seen as an age of decline and stagnation, it was also a dynamic period, witnessing the growth and development of governmental structures, the spread of monastic reform, and the production of important artistic and literary works. Elsewhere in Europe these decades saw the emergence of new kingdoms and national identities, the spread and development of church reform, the popularisation of pilgrimage, and the development of the Peace of God. It was also an age of great social and economic change: new practices of lordship emerged, trade expanded, and cities grew. This module seeks to use the reign of King Æthelred as a prism through which to view these developments, placing English experiences within their broader continental context.

The Context module will introduce you to events and developments in the ‘Age of Æthelred’, while the co-requisite Sources module will introduce you to a range of sources for the period.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module is designed to introduce you to social and political developments in England and western Europe in the reign of King Æthelred ‘the Unready’ (978-1016). The first half of the module will be dedicated to Æthelred’s reign in England, seeking to illustrate how this most maligned of English monarchs sought to navigate the vicissitudes of his age. Key themes will include the growth of governmental structures, the impact of monastic reform, and responses to the ongoing viking attacks. The second half will place these developments within a wider context. Consideration will be given to developments in England before and after Æthelred’s reign, as well as to his continental counterparts. Themes will include ideals and practices kingship, the establishment of new dynasties, monastic reform and the cult of saints.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Identify and analyse the different complex themes in the ‘Age of Æthelred’
  • 2. Understand and explain the key developments pertaining to the ‘Age of Æthelred’,developed through independent study and seminar work

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. Analyse the key developments within a particular historical environment
  • 4. Comprehend and explain complex historical texts and debates
  • 5. Understand and deploy relevant historical terminology in a comprehensible and sophisticated manner

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. Select, organise and analyse material for written work and/or oral presentations of different prescribed lengths and formats.
  • 7. Present an argument in a written form in a clear and organised manner, with appropriate use of correct English
  • 8. Through essay development process, demonstrate ability to reflect critically on your own work, to respond constructively to feedback, and to implement suggestions and improve work on this basis

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • England before Æthelred: From Alfred the Great to Edward the Martyr
  • Æthelred: A Mad, Bad and Dangerous King?
  • Æthelred’s Legacy: A Kingdom Lost and Won
  • Æthelred’s Continental Counterparts: Contact, Comparison, Contrast
  • Themes in the ‘Age of Æthelred’

The introductory session will offer an overview for students who may have little background in the subject. The co-requisite module will provide close focus on the historical sources available for detailed analysis of Æthelred’s reign.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching4422 x 2 hour seminars
Guided Independent Study256Reading and preparing for seminars, coursework and presentations

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Portfolio702 assignments totalling 4000 words1-8Oral and written
Assignment302500 words1-8Oral and written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Written assignmentWritten assignment1-8Referral/Deferral period
Assignment (2500 words)Assignment (2500 words)1-8Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Introductory reading:

  • S. Keynes, The Diplomas of King Æthelred ‘the Unready’, 978–1016: A Study in their Use as Historical Evidence (Cambridge, 1980).
  • S. Keynes, ‘A Tale of Two Kings: Alfred the Great and Æthelred the Unready’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 5 thser. 36 (1986), 195–217.
  • D. Hill, ed., Ethelred the Unread: Papers from the Millenary Conference, BAR: British Series 59 (London, 1978).
  • T. Reuter, ed., The New Cambridge Medieval History, III, c. 900–1024 (Cambridge, 2000).
  • P. Stafford, Unification and Conquest: A Political and Social History of England in the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries (London, 1989).
  • M. Townend, ed., Wulfstan, Archbishop of York (Turnhout, 2004).
  • Williams, Æthelred the Unready: The Ill-Counselled King (London, 2003).

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

At least 90 credits of History at Stage 1 (NQF Level Four) and/or Stage 2 (NQF Level Five)

Module co-requisites

HIH3117: The Age of Æthelred ‘the Unready’: Sources

NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date