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The Medieval World: From Constantine to the Khans


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 4
  • Convenor: Elina Screen
  • Assessment: a 500-word description of a primary source (20%), a 1000-word critical analysis of an exhibition or documentary (20%), a 2000-word research essay (20%) and a 48-hour online examination (40%), with 60% attendance required

Module description

This module begins with the reign of Constantine I, when the Roman Empire transferred its capital to Constantinople and began to become Christian. It takes you through the rise of Islam, developments in empires, monarchies, monasteries and mysticism, to the Crusades and the sweeping changes across continental Europe with the Black Death and the rise of the Mongol Empire.

The farmers, emperors, heretics, saints and soldiers 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 will find yourself also examining big ideas about what we mean by modernity or the classical past. 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, alongside archaeological reports and coins, maps, images and artefacts in your own learning and research.

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.