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Unit information: Medieval Mind (Level C Special Topic) in 2016/17

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Unit name Medieval Mind (Level C Special Topic)
Unit code HIST10038
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Pohl
Open unit status Not open



Special Topic Project - HIST13003

School/department Department of History (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts


From a modern perspective, the Middle Ages can seem a strange and curious kind of beast. In everyday language, the term ‘medieval’ is often used to designate outdated, cruel or even barbaric world views (for example, when speaking about ‘medieval’ forms of violence or ‘going medieval’ on someone). Popular imagination readily paints the Middle Ages (referred to by some as the so-called ‘Dark Ages’) as a period marked by, on the one hand, extreme violence and lack of knowledge (as opposed to, say, the Enlightenment) and, on the other, religious extremism paired with superstition (a world when people believed in heaven and hell, saints and everyday miracles, at the same time as going on Crusade to fight the infidel in far-off parts of the world). Last but not least, medieval Europe is commonly conceived of as a society that knew little social tolerance and promoted sexual oppression of women and those whose desires fell outside the norms decreed by the Roman Catholic Church. This unit will debunk these common myths and misconceptions about the Middle Ages by offering a more nuanced view into the intriguing and multifaceted ways in which medieval people perceived the world they lived in. We will read original sources written by medieval historians, churchmen, lawyers, poets and philosophers that allow us to enter into a fascinating world inhabited by saints and sinners, popes and prostitutes and, not least, ordinary men and women.

Intended learning outcomes

  1. an in-depth understanding and detailed knowledge of medieval life and thought
  2. the ability to integrate both primary and secondary source material into a wider historical analysis and argument
  3. awareness of how to approach a long term historical analysis from a modern perspective
  4. the ability confidently to select relevant evidence in order to illustrate historical arguments
  5. the ability to identify a particular academic interpretation, evaluate it critically and form an individual viewpoint, as appropriate to level C

Teaching details

1 x 2-hour seminar per week

Assessment Details

One 2-hour examination. This will assess ILOs 1-5.

Reading and References

  • R. Bartlett, The Natural and Supernatural in the Middle Ages (Cambridge, 2008). (BF1411 BAR)
  • P. J. Geary, Living with the Dead in the Middle Ages (Ithaca, 1994). (BT825 GEA)
  • M. E. Goodich, Miracles and Wonders: The Development of the Concept of Miracle, 1150-1350 (Aldershot, 2007). (BT97.3 GOO)
  • A. J. Gurevich, Medieval Popular Culture (Cambridge, 1988). (CB353 GUR)
  • B. Hamilton, Religion in the Medieval West (London, 1986). (BR738.2 HAM)
  • R. M. Karras, Sexuality in Medieval Europe: Doing onto Others, 2nd ed. (London, 2012). (online access, HQ14 KAR)