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The Medieval World: From Constantine to the Khans


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 4
  • Convenor: to be confirmed
  • Assessment: a 500-word primary source analysis (20%), 500-word modern scholarship summary (20%) and 1500-word essay (60%)

Module description

In this module we introduce you to the ways we imagine and write the worlds of the Middle Ages, a period roughly defined as between the fall of Rome and the ‘rise’ of modernity, or ca. 500-1500 AD.

The farmers, emperors, heretics, saints and soldiers, queens, monastics and slaves who lived this period did not think they were living in the 'Middle Ages', wedged between the antique and the modern. And they did not necessarily think they were living in a single world. Some believed they were living at the end of time. For others the Middle Ages were actually the 'beginning ages', the origin point for fundamental ideas about their lives. For still others these centuries constituted the golden age of dynasties, cities and societies.

In exploring the Middle Ages, then, you examine what we mean by 'medieval’ and its relation to the modern world. You will have the chance to dig deep into economic, political and religious changes, and to see how people reacted to and participated in these forces in their everyday lives.

Your seminars and lectures will introduce some of the wonderful variety of sources from the period, giving you confidence to use chronicles, charters and accounts, poems and songs, images and artefacts in your own learning and research.

Indicative syllabus

  • Medievalism and historiography
  • Conversion
  • Country and city: rurality and urbanism
  • Environment and nature
  • Exploration
  • Material worlds
  • Space and time
  • Everyday life
  • Gender and the medieval body
  • Close encounters: the postcolonial medieval

Learning objectives

By the end of the module, you should be able to:

  • show familiarity with key changes to the urban life, religious beliefs, economic practices and political organisation which took place in the Middle Ages
  • discuss whether and how far these changes distinguish the Middle Ages from earlier and later periods
  • understand the range of sources, written and material, which are available for the study of the Middle Ages
  • describe and write analytically about a range of different sources
  • evaluate the use of medieval examples and evidence in modern popular culture, especially exhibitions and documentaries
  • structure arguments concerning the significance and meaning of evidence relating to social changes in the Middle Ages
  • locate and correctly reference secondary and primary sources relevant to an argument.