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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : Scottish History

Undergraduate Course: Anglo-Saxon and Celtic Political Thought (SCHI10070)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Course typeStandard AvailabilityAvailable to all students
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) Credits20
Home subject areaScottish History Other subject areaCeltic
Course website None Taught in Gaelic?No
Course descriptionWhat is the nature of organised society? How are authority, power and leadership structured and exercised? The surviving corpus of writings produced in early medieval Britain and Ireland (c.500 to c.900) are remarkably rich in perspectives on these political questions. Intensive study of these works forms the backbone of a long scholarly tradition concerned with 'institutional history': the origins and concrete realities of kingship, 'governance' and political institutions in the British Isles. Such a focus has tended to ignore, however, the more abstract and intellectual aspects of Insular political writing in this era. In some cases, scholars may even have mistaken abstract ideas for evidence of authentic political behaviour.

This course, relying on English translations of key texts, seeks to introduce students to the impressive range of political thought which survives, including considerations of such subjects as social status, leadership and followership, authority and its limits, freedom, obedience and justice. It will stimulate reflection on these concepts as general features of the human condition in all times and places. It will also test various aspects of the 'institutional history' of early medieval Britain and Ireland.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Additional Costs None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesA pass or passes in 40 credits of first level historical courses or equivalent and a pass or passes in 40 credits of second level historical courses or equivalent. Before enrolling students on this course, Directors are asked to contact the History Honours Admission Secretary to ensure that a place is available (Tel: 503783).
Displayed in Visiting Students Prospectus?No
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
1. -- command of the body of historical knowledge surrounding political thought in early medieval Britain and Ireland, demonstrated/assessed through written work and seminar contributions
2. -- an ability to develop and sustain informed and relevant historical arguments, demonstrated/assessed through written work and seminar contributions
3. -- successful application of the professional skills of analysing critically historical texts of early medieval date (either in translation or in original languages, where students possess them) and associated modern scholarship
4. -- sharpened senses of the broad character of leadership, followership, power and authority with broad applicability to other courses and student endeavours
Assessment Information
The learning outcomes of the course will be assessed according to the following formula: two-hour Degree Examination (50% of final mark); individual Essay of 2500-3000 words (30% of final mark); individual Source Analysis/Commentary of 1000 words (15% of final mark); contributions to seminar discussion (5% of final mark).
Special Arrangements
Additional Information
Academic description Not entered
Syllabus 1 Was there political thought in the early Middle Ages?
2 Pagan past, Christian present, and political thought
3 Kinship and 'the kin-based society'
4 Tribes or 'states'? Concepts of local sovereignty and identity
5 The 'social contract' between king and people
6 Rank, 'excellence' and social mobility
7 Gildas, dissent and the tyrant-king
8 High kingship: concepts, theories and models
9 Innocents: the place and role of women in politics
10 Peace and power
11 Conclusion: political theory versus political practise
Transferable skills Not entered
Reading list Indicative Bibliography:
Aitchison, N. B. 'Kingship, society, and sacrality: rank, power, and ideology in early medieval Ireland', Traditio 49 (1994), 45-75.
Binchy, D. A. Celtic and Anglo-Saxon Kingship (Oxford, 1970).
Breatnach, L. Uraicecht na Ríar: the poetic grades in early Irish law (Dublin, 1987).
Burns, J. H. (ed.), The Cambridge History of Medieval Political Thought, c. 350-c. 1450 (Cambridge, 1988).
Byrne, F. J. 'Tribes and tribalism in early Ireland', Ériu 21 (1971), 128-64.
Byrne, F. J. Irish Kings and High-Kings (2nd edn: Dublin, 2001).
Charles-Edwards, T. M. 'Críth Gablach and the Law of Status', Peritia 5 (1986), 53-73.
Charles-Edwards, T. M. 'A contract between king and people in early medieval Ireland? Críth Gablach on kingship', Peritia 8 (1994), 107-19.
Charles-Edwards, T. M. Early Christian Ireland (Cambridge, 2000).
Davies, W. and P. Fouracre (eds.), The Settlement of Disputes in Early Medieval Europe (1986).
Driscoll, S. T. and M. R. Nieke (eds.), Power and Politics in Early Medieval Britain and Ireland (Edinburgh, 1988).
Enright, M. J. 'Royal succession and abbatial prerogative in Adomnán's Vita Columbae', Peritia 4 (1985), 83-103.
Ireland, C. A. (ed.), Old Irish Wisdom Attributed to Aldfrith of Northumbria: an edition of Bríathra Flainn Fína maic Ossu (Tempe AZ, 1999).
Jaski, B. Early Irish Kingship and Succession (Dublin, 2000).
Kelly, F. (ed.), Audacht Morainn (Dublin, 1976).
Kelly, F. A Guide to Early Irish Law (Dublin, 1988).
Mac Neill, E. (trans.), 'Ancient Irish law: the Law of Status or Franchise', Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 36 (1921-24 [1923]), Section C, 265-316.
McLeod, N. 'The concept of law in ancient Irish jurisprudence', The Irish Jurist 17 (1982), 356-67.
Meens, R. 'Politics, mirror of princes and the Bible: sins, kings and the well-being of the realm', Early Medieval Europe 7.3 (1998), 345-57.
Patterson, N. T. Cattle-Lords and Clansmen: the social structure of early Ireland (Notre Dame and London, 1994).
Ullmann, W. A History of Political Thought: the Middle Ages (Harmondsworth, 1965).
Wormald, P. 'Celtic and Anglo-Saxon kingship: some further thoughts', in P. E. Szarmach (ed.), Sources of Anglo-Saxon Culture (Kalamazoo, 1986), 151-83.
Study Abroad Not entered
Study Pattern Teaching in each two-hour seminar will revolve around student-led discussions of key texts and historiographical problems, informed by directed readings from secondary authorities. Debate and critical assessment of received interpretations will be encouraged. There are no formal student presentations.
KeywordsAnglo Saxon
Course organiserDr James Fraser
Tel: (0131 6)50 4034
Course secretaryMiss Clare Guymer
Tel: (0131 6)50 4030
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