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Welcome to Celtic Civilisation at the University of Galway
Celtic Civilisation examines the legacy of the Celts in the world, from the earliest times right down to the modern period.
As part of this programme, we examine in particular the formation of the peoples and nations of Ireland, Northern and Western Britain and France during the early Middle Ages, and consider the various representations of Celts in western Europe from the early-modern period onwards.
In short, Celtic Civilisation examines the history, archaeology, languages, literatures, mythologies and cultures of these peoples through the centuries.
Why study Celtic Civilisation?
This subject provides a comprehensive insight into the reality behind popular conceptions and misconceptions of the Celts in ancient, medieval, and modern incarnations. By studying this subject, you will be encouraged to view Celtic literature and culture in a new light, and to appreciate the legacy of the Celts, as evidenced in the literatures, languages, beliefs, customs and archaeology of Europe.
Studying Celtic Civilisation will develop your research, analytical, and communication skills, and enhance your ability to present material clearly and effectively. We offer Celtic Civilisation at undergraduate level as part of both undenominated and denominated programmes in Arts. Visit the University of Galway's Courses Page for information on how to apply and to review the programme entry requirements.
Module descriptors, lecture timetables, etc. for the current academic year are available at the following links.
Visiting students (Erasmus+/Study Abroad/International) who would like to participate in our programme during their time in Galway are encouraged to visit this page for more information.
What do our students say?
Honor Faughnan, BA (Drama, Classics & Celtic Civilisation)
"I applied to study Arts at the University of Galway the January before my Leaving Certificate exams, but it was not until Orientation the following September that I decided to study Celtic Civilisation after attending a taster lecture on the early history of the Celts by Dr Graham Isaac. What distinguishes Celtic Civilisation from other subjects is that it gives students the tools to navigate a vast swathe of time and space, from Bronze Age archaeology to modern Celtic sociolinguistics and language policy, and is completely interdisciplinary, exposing students to perspectives from history, linguistics, archaeology, folklore, mythology.
It is also examined almost entirely by essay, allowing students to focus on their own research interests, and involves lots of small-group teaching and class discussion. For me, having the opportunity to take beginner’s Old Irish and a course on historical linguistics was fantastic, but students can also take modules in medieval Irish literature and society, the Welsh origins of Arthurian literature, and the concept of Celtic identity in the modern world, among others.
Galway has long been a centre of excellence for Celtic Studies, but if asked in a interview how Celtic Civilisation equips students with the skills to succeed professionally, I would say that it gets you to interrogate all kinds of evidence, some it very tenuous and abstruse, with the result that you can expect to develop excellent analytical skills and become someone who can research and communicate new and conceptually difficult ideas in a rapidly changing work environment."
Arthur O'Brien, BA (Celtic Civilisation & History)
"I completed my undergraduate degree in 2021. My chosen subjects were History and Celtic Civilisation, of which Celtic Civilisation was my favourite! Celtic Civilisation is a fantastic discipline to choose if you have an interest in the study of History, Archaeology, Anthropology, Literature, Folklore, Language among others. The wide scope of lecture topics available ensures that there is something for everyone. The teaching staff all have different areas of expertise and are incredibly helpful with any issues you may have due to the smaller size of the discipline.
Studying Celtic Civilisation allowed me to develop skills related to many disciplines. I was able to study Latin through Classics as well as take many Archaeology modules. My studies focused on the Medieval and Ancient world of the Celts, although some modules also focused periods as recent as the 19th century. This discipline allowed me to understand the word Celtic and its meaning and understand a huge amount of the history and culture of the Celtic people. With this degree, I plan to further my studies and keep my focus on Medieval history and the Celts."
Jacopo Allio, BA (Archaeology & Celtic Civilisation)
"As a native of Ticino, the only predominantly Italian-speaking region of Switzerland, I have a strong appreciation for the complex relationship between language, local customs and beliefs - but what fascinates me the most is how these characteristics shape the identity of a society and the way in which societies evolve. Studying Celtic Civilisation at this university has been very enlightening in this sense.
The modules of Celtic Civilisation give the student the opportunity to gain a great knowledge of the ‘Celts’ by exploring disparate aspects of culture and society in the Celtic-speaking world. For example, we discovered how making connections between languages and reconstructing those from which they originate offers us a fascinating insight into how Celtic societies moved and who they interacted with. We also engaged with the impressive literary traditions of medieval Ireland and Wales, discussing, among other aspects, why poetry was so important that one single poem could end the reign of a king.
The Celtic Civilization programme has a wide range of modules on offer and is therefore diverse enough to cater for a great variety of interests. But most importantly, this diversity allowed me to draw on a vast range of evidence to develop and enhance my analytical skills. I can now undertake linguistic, literary, toponymic, historical, and archaeological analysis and I can compare and contrast the techniques involved to develop more accurate and insightful conclusions about former and present societies. These skills are relevant in my current Master’s in Cultural Heritage Studies at University College London (UCL). I am confident that they will also be valuable to future employers when I begin a career in Heritage, which is principally concerned with critically evaluating legacies of the past."
Rebecca Grant, BA (Archaeology & Celtic Civilisation)
"I really enjoyed my time studying Celtic Civilisation in Galway. There is a diverse range of modules to choose from, including those on Celtic mythology, the Celtic languages, and the origins of the "Celt". The department also closely works with the departments of Archaeology, Classics, and History, and students often take modules offered by these departments so that they are able to study topics from the areas they enjoy studying the most.
The modules in Celtic Civilisation blended well with my other subject Archaeology, where I could see the overlapping of some topics and ideas which weave through the heart of both subjects. Throughout my degree, I was able to develop my skills in the Welsh language, to improve my critical thinking and analytical skills, and had the opportunity to explore Celtic mythology in both Ireland and Wales.
Although I plan to study Human Osteoarchaeology at postgraduate level, I really enjoyed studying Celtic Civilisation, particularly Arthurian literature and Welsh poetry. My degree has provided me with a thorough understanding of the Celtic peoples, the culture and society of the Celtic speaking world, the connections between the Celtic languages, and the literary traditions of medieval Ireland and Wales.
My experience with this course has been extremely positive. The lecturers and staff are all very friendly and supportive. I can't recommend it highly enough to anyone interested in learning about the Celtic world, or to take it as a route to understanding Irish and Welsh mythology and literature."
Eoghan Ó Flaithbheartaigh, BA (Joint Honours)
"Celtic Civilisation allows students to delve into the origins of the people that became known as the Celts. In addition, read for yourself the classical writings that record encounters and viewpoints that both illuminate and consternate our understanding of the ‘Celts’ in the ancient world. As the centuries pass explore the civilisation of the Celtic peoples as they encounter Christianity, Vikings and Normans amid the trials and tribulations of shifting and aggressive political powers. The exploration roams through the surviving manuscripts written in the vernacular languages of the Celtic people, with tantalising inscriptions from the continent augmenting our knowledge of the linguistic diversity of these people.
The second year of the programme gives the scholar a chance to take a more detailed look at all these aspects including medieval Irish and Welsh literature and the gods and goddesses of old. If the opportunity presents itself beginners Welsh is also a highly rewarding endeavour. Final year examines the lives of women in medieval Ireland, the life and work of the court poet, and will also introduce students to the subject of comparative linguistics. If the medieval period and the rich heritage of the Celtic people fascinates you, then you will find the modules offered in Celtic Civilisation highly rewarding. Celtic Civilisation works closely with the Schools of Archaeology, History and Classics to offer lots of interesting cross-listed modules."
I found all the modules that I studied in ‘Celtic Civ’ stimulated my academic interests enormously and allowed me to focus on areas and aspects of the past I was most interested in. I would not hesitate to recommend it to anybody.”
Kelsey Holmes, BA (Joint Honours)
"Studying Celtic Civilisation gives you the freedom to explore the languages, mythologies, and histories of the Celts, from battling with the Welsh warriors in The Gododdin, travelling through medieval Ireland with the Fianna and St. Patrick, and struggling alongside the medieval women of Ireland.
Other modules focus on historical aspects of the Celtic worlds, questioning the origin of the Celts, and how they are perceived today. The origins of the Celtic languages and other ancient languages, still spoken today, can also be explored.
Unique to this course is the chance to focus on the role and treatment of women within medieval Ireland, which is a ground-breaking and relevant topic for today’s society.
Personally, having a focus on medieval archaeology, the opportunity to study the medieval literature of Ireland gave my studies in Archaeology a deeper and more vibrant perspective. My experience studying Celtic Civ is one which has stayed with me through my postgraduate studies. I could not recommend it more."