Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Wales and the Kings of Britain: Conflict, Power and Identities in the British Isles 1039-1417
Academic Year
Semester 1
Exclusive (Any Acad Year)
Other Staff

Course Delivery



Due to Covid-19 students should refer to the module Blackboard pages for assessment details

Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Written essay  2500 Words  50%
Semester Exam 2 Hours   Examination  50%
Supplementary Assessment Written essay  2500 Words  50%
Supplementary Exam 2 Hours   Examination  50%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

Demonstrate an understanding of key developments in Welsh politics and identity in the Middle Ages.

Develop the ability to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of historical arguments regarding the history of the British Isles from 1039 to 1417.

Show an awareness of different types of primary and secondary sources.

Use appropriate historical evidence to construct arguments orally (unassessed) and in writing, including in concise fashion.

Brief description

The centuries between the reigns of Gruffudd ap Llywelyn and Owain Glyndŵr witnessed dramatic changes in Wales, and these happened within a rapidly developing context across the British Isles. This module will explore how Welsh power and identity developed during these centuries, but also tells the wider story of the British Isles. As Welsh kings and princes sought to consolidate and expand their power they did so in the context of their relationship with their allies and enemies in Ireland, England and Scotland. Parallel developments in Scotland and Ireland will be investigated and how they all operated under the shadow of the increasing dominance of the ‘First English Empire’. We will assess how the Welsh negotiated and renegotiated their relationship with their neighbours in the inter-connected lands around the Irish Sea. The concept of what ‘Britain’ meant will also be discussed as we consider competing perceptions and aspirations about what it was and what it should be. This was a period that shaped the relationship between the four nations for centuries to come; through its exploration we will develop a greater understanding of today’s political and relational landscape between Wales, England, Ireland and Scotland.


Lectures (indicative)
1. Introduction: kings of Britain and kings of the Britons
2. Mental geographies and orbits of power
3. Gruffudd ap Llywelyn, Mercia and the Scandinavians
4. The coming of the Normans
5. Gruffudd ap Cynan: Welsh king and Scandinavian pirate
6. Owain Gwynedd, David I and ‘national revivals’
7. Henry II and the (Cambro-)Norman invasion of Ireland
8. Bishops, saints and scholars
9. The Lord Rhys and Welsh identity
10. Llywelyn the Great and Alexander II
11. Llywelyn the Last: the formation of a principality
12. Edward I and the First English Empire
13. Migration and colonization
14. Rebellions and Celtic alliances
15. Trade and exploitation
16. The ebb and flow of empire
17. The Glyndŵr Rebellion, Scotland and France
18. Conclusion: towards four nations?

There will be six seminars, each focussed on a particular primary source:
1. Chronicle of the Princes
2. Law of Hywel Dda
3. Historia Gruffudd ap Cynan
4. Gerald of Wales
5. Acts of Welsh Rulers
6. Poetry

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Students will develop the ability to analyse sources relevant to the period and field as well as the ability to deal critically with the secondary literature.
Students will be expected to play an active part in group activities (e.g. short group presentations in seminars) and to learn to evaluate their own contribution to such activities.
Students are expected to note and respond to historical problems which arise as part of the study of this subject area and to undertake suitable research for seminars and essays.
Through exploration this topic students will develop a greater understanding of today’s political and relational landscape between Wales, England, Ireland and Scotland.
Written communication skills will be developed through the coursework and written examination; skills in oral presentation will be developed in seminars but are not formally assessed.
Students will be advised on how to improve research and communication skills through the individual tutorial providing feedback on submitted coursework.
Students will be encouraged to locate suitable material on the web and to apply it appropriately to their own work. Students will also be expected to word-process their work and make use of Blackboard. These skills will not be formally assessed.


This module is at CQFW Level 5