Barbarians and the Birth of Europe

Department of History, School of History and Cultures

College of Arts and Law


Code 19838

Level of study Second Year

Credit value 20

Semester 1&2

Module description

This course examines what happened when groups of barbarians such as the Huns, Goths, Vandals, Franks and Lombards moved into the later Roman empire in the fourth to sixth centuries. Using a range of historical and archaeological sources, we shall look both at case studies of individual groups, and at the wider themes arising out of these: migration; ethnic identity; the processes by which the Roman empire tried to accommodate the barbarian groups; and the development of post-Roman kingdoms. The course will also engage with historiographical questions. Firstly, should we view the break-up of the Western Roman empire as the 'end of civilisation' or merely the 'transformation of the Roman world'? Secondly, the period of the barbarian migrations has traditionally been seen as the beginning of many 'national' European histories as written in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. How has (and still does) this influence(d) our view of the end of the Roman empire, and the early medieval kingdoms which succeeded it?