CCIV10030 The British Celts

Academic Year 2023/2024

The module gives an overview of the early history of the Celtic-speaking peoples in Britain. After outlining what we know of Late Iron Age Britain, we study the wide-ranging changes caused by Roman Conquest, and examine what can be learned from various types of evidence about aspects of daily life, art and religion. When the Romans left we consider what was their enduring legacy, and what the newly independent Britain was once again like before the arrival of a new external threat with the coming of Germanic speakers, the ancestors of the English. These are the 'Dark Ages' in terms of scanty direct textual documentations, when traditions associated with the enigmatic but influential figure of Arthur developed. We also examine the emergence of new kingdoms and see how Christianity spread over the whole land. Finally we look at the languages and written culture of late antique and early meideval Britain, starting with the earliest evidence of the British Celtic languages such as curse tablets and burial stones, but focusing on medieval Welsh literature, such as the heroic poems and the magical Mabinogion narratives, which are read in translation.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

Understand the role of the native Celts in the formation of Britain, and the impact of invading cultures on them.
Be aware of the main source material available for the historical interpretation of early Britain.
Gain some knowledge of medieval Welsh literature in the light of social and historical forces which shaped it, as well as appreciating what it has to say to modern readers.

Indicative Module Content:

Part 1 : Roman Britain
Introduction: Who were the Celts?
Late Prehistoric Britain
The Classical Sources
Daily Life
Late Antiquity in Britain
Part 2: Early Medieval and Anglo-Saxon Britain
After Rome – Independent Britain
The Arrival of the Saxons
The Story of Arthur
Kings and Kingdoms – The Successor States in the North
Kings and Kingdoms – The Successor States in the South-West
The Britons and their Church
A “Celtic” Church or a “Roman” Church?
The Britons divided

Part 3: Early Welsh language and literature
The peoples and languages of early Britain I
The peoples and languages of early Britain II
The written culture of medieval Wales
Early Welsh law
Taliesin and Aneirin
Saga poetry and later development in poesy
The Four Branches of the Mabinogi
Easter Monday – No lecture or tutorial
Culhwch ac Olwen and other prose narratives

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning








Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
Lectures, supplemented by tutorials. Tutorial time will be devoted to close readings of primary texts and discussion of matters raised in the lectures. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
British Celts (CCIV1903)

Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Essay: An essay of 1,000 - 1,500 words long related to the third part of the module. Week 12 n/a Graded No


Continuous Assessment: Tutorial preparation and contribution, and one 100-word learning journal on Brightspace each week Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Essay: A document analysis related to the second part of this module Week 10 n/a Graded No


Essay: short literature review essay on key scholarly work related to the first part of the module. Week 6 n/a Graded No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Autumn No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Oral or written/annotated feedback which can be face-to-face, on Brightspace or by email.

A reading list will be provided with the module handbook, and a topic-specific reading list will be provided with the lecture slides and other learning materials on Brightspace every week.
Name Role
Dr Jaqueline Bemmer Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Allison Galbari Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Nathan Millin Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Assoc Professor Fangzhe Qiu Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33 Mon 13:00 - 13:50
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33 Wed 13:00 - 13:50
Tutorial Offering 1 Week(s) - 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33 Wed 10:00 - 10:50
Tutorial Offering 2 Week(s) - 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33 Wed 12:00 - 12:50