I am in the final year of my Bachelor of Arts with honours at Carleton University. My major is in history and I have a minor in Medieval and Early Modern Studies as well as Greek and Roman Studies. My main area of interest, as well as the subject of my undergraduate honours thesis, is Early Medieval Europe. More specifically, the social, political, and religious relationships during the 6th century in Frankish Gaul – mainly through the writings of Gregor of Tours.

I am currently studying the language of Old Norse/Icelandic and the associated literature, particularly the writings of Snorri Sturluson. I particularly enjoy conversion history and the comparison of pre-Christian Scandinavia to western Christian culture.


B.A. (Honours). Department of History. Carleton University, (2014-Current).


Designed to be taught in a twelve-week half-term university level course, the game “Divided Kingdom, 561” provides a resource to encourage students/players to engage in critical discussion (both ‘in’ and ‘out’ of character) about the complex relationships between competing social networks that existed in sixth-century Frankish Gaul. To encourage greater student engagement with the period, students read primary source texts (such as Gregory of Tours’ Historia Francorum) to get information for making strategic decisions in the game play. Given the relative lack of sources we have for the period, however, Divided Kingdom, 561 allows students the opportunity to use their critical thinking and imagination to fill in the historical gaps. Merovingian agency, motivation, outlooks, and beliefs are all difficult to decipher by professional medievalists, let alone university students approaching the material for the first time. With students taking on the personae of a historical character or a general archetype, they come to understand complex ideas such as motivation, power-dynamics, and social customs in order to roleplay successfully along with their fellow students.
My project seeks to dive into the gaps we have in our knowledge of the period through ‘informed role-playing. Active reading of the sources is required. Discussion is key, as is identification of key central topics (‘scenarios’ in game terms). Departing from the typical small-group discussion format, this project seeks to engage students more intimately with primary texts as well as the possibilities of historical causation. The key conceptions of ‘motivation’, ‘influence’, ‘outlook’, ‘historical possibility’ are all important factors in these discussions. What motivated historical actors to take the actions they made?  An intimate understanding of that character’s social background, as well as the society in which they inhabit functions to create an understanding of their motivation. What is someone’s influence, their dominion of power and how does that affect their interaction with others? Who listens to your character and what is their purpose within their larger community. How a character views the world and their surroundings, e.g. what is their outlook. Historical possibility is important for students to consider when discussing and making character choices. Determining whether an action would be a historical possibility requires supervision from the instructor, as well as knowledge of the source material. These key terms must be included in the thought process of students for both discussion and assignments.
Divided Kingdom, 561asks students to think critically about primary sources, creating an idea of the author’s and historical actors’ motivation and their position within the web of Merovingian power. Not only do the students build an understanding of the role of certain figures in 6th century Frankish society (e.g. bishops, papal authority, Gallo-roman aristocracy, Frankish kings, female nobility, etc.) but also their relations with the many other groups. Through the discussions, students engage with other students, monitored by the instructor, about the scenario at hand. These are informed and prepared discussions where students read Gregory and secondary sources to build a practical understanding. The discussions facilitated ‘in character’ help the students understand the interactions of various social/political/religious groups. These ‘in character’ discussions are supplemented by ‘out of character’ discussions where students freely engage with each other and the instructor on what took place in the scenarios, and more importantly, why things happened as they did. Instead of only playing and talking as your character, students will have less of a drive to simply ‘win’ the game and focus more on collaborative learning. By stepping out of character students will be able to explain and understand their actions and decisions. By bringing that discussion together with the whole class everyone can critically analyze the multiple groups within the larger Frankish Society, understanding their role in relation to each other.
The role of the instructor in all of this is to help the facilitate discussion, reigning it in if it gets too far off track, and ‘policing’ certain decisions and statements for their historical likeliness. A very important aspect to game-based learning platforms is the allowance for rapid feedback. When students pose a possible interpretation, character action, or discussion point, the instructor needs to be there to answer and comment to help prevent stalls or misunderstandings. This is a very student-centric learning system that puts the onus of creative and critical contemplation on the students. The framework of this project is designed to put the players in the mind of their characters. It trains the students to not simply read Gregory, but analyse it for deeper meanings and to find an individual’s motivations.

Maximilian Stewart-Hawley Cronkite

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