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Unit information: Britain AD in 2020/21

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Unit name Britain AD
Unit code ARCH20068
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Prior
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Anthropology and Archaeology
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit provides a comprehensive survey of the social organisation, economy, settlement patterns and material culture of Britain and Ireland, spanning the later pre-Roman Iron Age and Roman periods, through the Anglo-Saxon and Medieval ages and culminating in the archaeology of the industrial era. It explores the cultures and practices of diverse peoples inhabiting Britain over these two millennia AD, examining key themes including identity, social practices, trade, power and ritual through evidence surviving from material culture, biological remains and in the landscape.

This unit aims to provide students with:

1) Comprehensive knowledge of the sites, artefacts and monuments that characterise the archaeology of these periods in Britain and Ireland.

2) Ability to recognise and describe the archaeologies of economy, settlement, social organisation and religion.

3) Critical awareness of the different lines of archaeological, textual and scientific evidence that are used to explore the social, technological and economic changes witnessed during this time.

4) Ability to evaluate the various theoretical models used to understand social change, power and identity in Britain and Ireland in the 1st – 2nd millennia AD.

5) Understanding of the relationship between social and economic changes taking place in Britain and Ireland and the wider European context.

6) The opportunity to develop collaborative skills through co-leading peer-to-peer learning.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the unit, students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate developed knowledge of the character and sequence of British archaeology from the later pre-Roman Iron Age through to the industrial age.

2. Describe and explain the complex processes of change in the British Isles from the 1st to the 20th centuries AD through archaeological, geographical and historical evidence.

3. Demonstrate critical awareness of the problems of using archaeological evidence to interpret proto-historic societies, documented by fragmentary historical evidence.

4. Assess and evaluate the theories and debates surrounding the study of Roman, Medieval, post-Medieval and historical archaeology, including the models of social relations, urbanisation, growth of settlements, economy and trade, and the development of social organisation and state religion.

5. Synthesise and appraise evidence from a wide range of sources, both historical and archaeological.

Teaching details

Lectures/workshops guided by self-guided activities (weeks 1 - 5, 9 - 10).

Student presentations (week 7, 8).

1 day field trip (self guided, week 6).

Assessment Details

2500 word reflective essay (50 %) ILOs 2, 5.

Presentation (25 %) and handout (25 %) ILOs 1, 3, 4, 5.

Reading and References

Brink, S. & Price, N. 2011. The Viking World. Routledge.

Edwards, N. 1996. The Archaeology of Early Medieval Ireland. Batsford: London.

Ferguson, R. 2010. The Hammer and The Cross: A New History of the Vikings. Penguin.

Hamerow, H. 2004. Early Medieval Settlements: The Archaeology of Rural Communities in North-West Europe 400-900. OUP: Oxford.

Hamerow, H., Hinton, D., & Crawford, S. 2011. The Oxford Handbook of Anglo-Saxon Archaeology. OUP.

Mattingly, D. (2006) An Imperial Possession: Britain in the Roman Empire (London: Penguin)

Millett, M. (1990) The Romanization of Britain (Cambridge: CUP)

Newman, R., Cranstone, D. and Howard-Davis, C. 2001. The historical archaeology of Britain, c. 1540-1900. Stroud: Sutton.

Palmer, M. and Neaverson, P. 1998. Industrial archaeology: principles and practice. London: Routledge.