The Vikings

Course summary

The Vikings


The Oxford Experience is a residential summer programme providing one-week courses in a variety of subjects aimed at non-specialists. It offers a choice of seminars each week over a period of six weeks.

Ravagers, despoilers, pagans, heathens - the Vikings are usually regarded as bloodthirsty pirates, whose impact on Europe was one of fear and terror. As they plundered the British Isles and the north Atlantic, these pagan invaders were seen by their Christian victims as a visitation from God.

Yet the Vikings were also traders, settlers and farmers with a highly developed artistic culture and legal system. Their network of trade routes, stretching from Greenland to Byzantium, and their settlements, resulted in the creation of the Duchy of Normandy in France, and the foundation of the new Kingdom of Russia in Kiev and Novgorod as well as the development of Irish towns including Cork, Dublin and Limerick.

This course will use recent findings from archaeology, together with documentary records, to examine the Viking world and to give a balanced view of this fascinating period.

Programme details

Seminars meet each weekday morning, 09.15-10.45 and 11.15-12.45, with afternoons free for course-related field trips, individual study or exploring the many beautiful places in and around the city.


The Scandinavian Homelands

Prehistoric origins

The Late Iron Age in Scandinavia


All-day field trip to Wareham


The Vikings in the East

The Rus

The Vikings in the west

Iceland, Greenland and Vinland


Early raids and settlement

Raids in Britain and France

Settlement in Orkney and Shetland, Isle of Man, Normandy

The Danelaw


Viking Age culture

The legal system

Art – metalwork and sculpture

Literature – Eddaic and Skaldic verse, the sagas

Field Trip:

Destination: Wareham

Excursion Rating: Demanding

Excursion Ratings: Key
(as rated by course tutors)
Easy: Up to an hour's walk on even ground or less than half an hour's walk on rough ground.
Moderate: Up to two hours' walk on even ground or up to an hour's walk on rough and/or steep ground or up lots of stairs and steps.
Demanding: More than two hours' walk on even ground or up to two hours' walk on rough and/or steep ground or up lots of stairs and steps.

Recommended reading

Graham-Campbell, J.  Viking Art. Thames and Hudson. 2013.

Hall, R. The World of the Vikings. Thames and Hudson. 2007.

Haywood, J. The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Vikings. Penguin Books. 1995.


During your course, you will stay in typical Oxford student accommodation at Christ Church in buildings which range from the 18th to the 20th century. Bedrooms are modestly-furnished, do not have air-conditioning and are arranged on a staircase of four or five floors.

The fee £1490  includes a bedroom with private bathroom facilities (shower, washbasin and toilet). Most are single but a few twins are available for couples or those who wish to share with a friend. Those couples wishing to book a twin room should contact us direct, as these rooms cannot be booked online.

There are also a few standard rooms available which all have their own washbasin and shaver point but the bath and toilet facilities on each staircase are shared. To apply for one of these rooms please select the ‘Programme Fee (with single standard accommodation and meals)’ option on the application form.  Early application for these rooms is essential.

Most standard rooms are single but there are a few ‘twin sets’ (two single rooms opening off a sitting room). If you wish to book a twin set, please contact us direct, as these rooms cannot be booked online.

Please indicate your accommodation preferences (either online or on your application form) together with a note of any mobility problems.

We regret that we are unable to offer you accommodation at Christ Church prior to or following your course. Additionally, family or friends who are not enrolled in the programme cannot be accommodated in college.


Programme Fee (single en-suite accom. and meals and field trip): £1550.00
Programme Fee (single standard accom. and meals and field trip): £1370.00


Mr David Beard


David Beard is a freelance archaeologist and is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland specializing in medieval archaeology, especially the Anglo-Saxon and Viking periods. He has been involved in continuing education for many years having taught for the Universities of Oxford, London, Essex and Ulster.

Assessment methods

There are no assessments for this course.


Online registration closes on Monday, 1 May 2017 but please note that this course may be fully booked very quickly so early registration is recommended.