Some Different Groups of People To Know
Angles - The Germanic people living in what we now call England post Roman Occupation of England. The group co-mingled with the Saxons and are usually referred to as Anglo-Saxons and founded much of what we now consider "English."
Burgundians - An East Germanic Tribe that eventually settled in the South-Eastern part of what is Modern day France. Clotilda, wife of Clovis was a Burgundian and played a role in his conversion to Christianity.
Franks - This was a group of people considered "Germanic" because of their initial language and lifestyle as they swept into Western Europe. The Franks, settled in what was called Gaul at the time. The area was re-named France after its Frankish population during the Middle Ages.
Huns - This group of people came out of Asia before the fall of Rome. Attila is their most famous leader and is known for being a fierce fighter. The Huns were expert horsemen and had superior bow technology for the day. They were nomadic and attacked various villages and settlements as they moved through Europe.
Moors - Islamic peoples that occupied Northern African regions, the Iberian Peninsula and parts of Southern Italy for part of the Medieval Period. They are not really a self-defined people as are many of the other groups listed here, but did develop a specific culture and presence within Medieval-European awareness. (Saracen is also used as a word to describe anyone that practiced Islam. While the two words weren't used synonymously, they both mean essentially the same thing today - with Moor being slightly more specific).
Normans - Peoples of North Germanic and Scandinavian Origins that settled in what is now Northern France and from which the area now called "Normandy" derives its name. The Normans played a HUGE political role throughout Europe during the Medieval Period.
Ostrogoths (Austrogothi) - Participated in significant trade with the Romans. However, they also had periods of war with Rome. As the Huns moved in to the area the Ostrogoths had inhabited, many tried to escape into Roman-conquered land creating tensions. After subjugation by the huns, the Ostrogoths and Visigoths worked together at times and Ostrogoths played a role in the weakening of the Roman empire.
Saxons - This was part of the group of people that would eventually give rise to the Anglo-Saxons that gave us English. However, there are still many questions about them today. Britain AD episode 2 discusses the finding of the Saxon Hoard that gave us much of what we do know about the Saxons today.
Vandals - This group of people has an interesting story behind it that may surprise many of us today because they were much more peaceful than most of us might imagine.
Vikings - These Scandanavian People also played a major role in European History and are often known for their violent raids and war tactics. They were a race in search of new-lands and is now widely believed to be the first group from the Old World to have landed in the North American Coast.
Visigoths - Counterparts to the Ostrogoths this group originated in much the same way, but developed its own independent culture in the years the group ruled over Hispania. The Visigoths were one of the groups to have sacked Rome during its decline and are most known for their defeat of Rome (As are the Vandals).
Byzantine Romans - The Eastern half of the Roman Empire that remained after Rome and Western Europe fell came to be known as the Byzantine Empire. It was actually populated by individuals from many of the ethnicities listed above, but all its populace practiced the culture and traditions of the late Roman Empire in terms of its economic and political structure. However, most of its emperors after Constantine practiced Christianity rather than Roman Paganism.
Video ResourcesAs usual, preview any film links before using.
There are a number of videos that may be useful in your quest to understand the groups of people that took over Europe during the Early Medieval Period. I especially enjoyed Terry Jones and his series, Barbarians (Link to Episode 1: The Primative Celts). Terry Jones gives a different view than the typical one taught in school of these different groups of people in a very real analysis of what we really know about the groups of people he covers. Of course, he does it with a wonderful sense of humor and makes light of our misconceptions about Rome's old neighbors. I HIGHLY recommend this series for those of you teaching about the period - even if your kids are too young to appreciate the series themselves. For later episodes, simply look for the episodes in the suggested list below the video viewer on the page.
Although the History Channel often capitalizes on melodrama, their documentaries do provide information about the individuals and periods covered. The Series, Barbarians, gives a picture of what some of the groups listed above, were like at the end of the Roman Empire and beginning of the Medieval Period. There is an episode for the Franks, Vikings, Saxons and others. Many can be found on Youtube.
Secrets of the Dark Ages - Barbarians
Treasures of the Anglo Saxons BBC Movie: Another home run by the BBC. This documentary makes clear what we do know about the Anglo Saxons and their beliefs and way of life and how we know it. It does include one Anglo Saxon myth that is not a pretty one and includes both sex and violence so as always, preview the movie before including the movie with your on-going activities with your child/children.
King Arthur's Britain is an interesting "Archaeological Journey" into what life may really have been like during the Early Middle Ages in "Angle-Land" or England.
The Not So Dark Ages also narrated by Francis Pryor - This video focuses largely on misconceptions held by many about the "Dark Ages" and why we know our traditional story of the period is probably inaccurate. I HIGHLY recommend anyone teaching about the period see this, even if they don't share the video with their pupil/pupils.