Traders, Raiders, Settlers and Conquerors: England 700-1066

Traders, Raiders, Settlers and Conquerors: England 700-1066

This was the title of a highly successful continuing professional development workshop for around 30 secondary school teachers held at the King’s Manor, courtesy of the University of York, on Saturday 16th June 2018.   Jointly organised with the Historical Association it was delivered by 4 members of the After Empire project from Exeter, St Andrews and Berlin working together with practising secondary school teachers and the author of a recent text book.

It set out to fill a gap in current provision and knowledge amongst school teachers.  The recent reforms of GCSE history in England and Wales have introduced medieval history into the history curriculum of history for many more students aged 14-16 in England and Wales.  These reforms were intended to help redress the previous perceived imbalance in favour of c. 20th history, and to give students experience and knowledge of different periods and types of history.  At the same time, they pose a real challenge for teachers with little experience of teaching medieval history to students beyond the age of 12 and all too often little or no knowledge of the subject themselves from their own studies at university.  Textbooks and resources are still playing catch-up with these innovations.

The workshop was intended to help remedy this situation by offering a free continuing professional development opportunity to secondary school teachers, providing guidance for how teachers might go beyond the textbooks in their knowledge and idea about how to deliver effective lessons to students of three different GCSE units on migration across time, the Viking expansion, and the Norman Conquest.   That some 55 teachers registered (although attendance was lower, owing to the pressures of the end of school year, as well as a certain football tournament, no doubt) points to the real demand for such events.

Working with Becky Sullivan, Mel Jones and Meheema Chanrai from the Historical Association, we devised the following programme: a mixture of academic talks and more hands-on, teacher-led workshops, of which participants attended two.    The academic talks were delivered by Sarah Greer, Sarah Hamilton, Alice Hicklin and Simon MacLean; the teacher workshops were led by Chris Culpin (the author of the OCR Schools History Project GCSE textbook, Viking Expansion, c. 750-c.1050), and practicing teachers from a range of different schools and areas, Sally Burnham (Lincolnshire), (Neal Watkin (Suffolk)  and Robin Whitburn and Abdul Mohamud (London).

Academic talks:

  • Sarah Hamilton (University of Exeter): Myths and realities: when, how and why were images of the Anglo-Saxons, Vikings and Normans created?
  • Alice Hicklin (Freie Universität, Berlin) and Sarah Greer (University of St Andrews): Conquest and Settlement: England, 792-1087
  • Simon MacLean (University of St Andrews): Conquest and Government: England c.900-c.1086

(participants chose to attend two of the following)

  • Workshop A: Vikings (Neal Watkins)
  • Workshop B: Tour of Viking York (Chris Culpin)
  • Workshop C: Interpretations of the Norman Conquest (Sally Burnham)
  • Workshop D: Emma of Normandy/Cnut – a case study in migration (Abdul Mohamud and Robin Whitburn)

As academics we all learnt a good deal about what materials and interpretations are available to those teaching early medieval history in our secondary schools, as well as discovering the issues on which teachers need most help, and how to pitch materials and debates at a suitable level for GCSE.

Comments from those who came included ‘fantastic detailed knowledge on a period I know very little about – thank you’, ‘Brilliant breakdown of complex period – and great website to explore’, ‘Great knowledge and sharing’ and ‘More CPD like this please 🙂 ’.  A request that will no doubt be heeded not only by those in the project, but by others teaching early medieval history in universities.


If you are interested in the PowerPoints from our academic talks, you can find them below:

Myths and realities: when, how and why were images of the Anglo-Saxons, Vikings and Normans created?

Conquest and Settlement: England, 792-1087