About this course

Shakespeare’s ‘Sceptred Isle’, that ‘Precious stone set in a silvered sea’, was never as isolated or embattled as the Bard implied. Whilst England’s relationships with her immediate and European neighbours was rarely cordial, its culture and identity were formed and changed by interaction with them.

Taking identity as our principal theme, this course will examine the medieval history of England from the end of Roman rule to the Hundred Years War. We will consider how what it meant to be English emerged and developed at a time that the monarchy and nobility was by turns Germanic, Scandinavian and French. How did those whose lives crossed cultural boundaries – Gerald of Wales, who had both Welsh and Norman family members; or Queen Emma, a Norman married first to the English king Æthelred and later the Scandinavian king Cnut – see themselves? And how did their identities shape the medieval world in which they lived? These and other important questions – such as how the English language was created, where parliament and answerable government came from, and what role invasion played in the creation of the country - will be investigated through a detailed study of original documents in modern English translation.

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