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Unit information: Introduction to Medieval History in 2013/14

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Unit name Introduction to Medieval History
Unit code HIST13011
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Smith
Open unit status Open




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


This is an introduction to the history of Western Europe, including the British Isles, between 1000 and 1300. This was a period of immense variety and complexity during which dramatic changes took place. The vital significance of these changes for the long-term development of Western Europe is not always appreciated, even though they continue to shape the landscape, built environment, institutions and cultural concepts of western European society today.

Assuming no prior knowledge, this unit offers an overview of political, social, economic, religious and intellectual developments. Lectures explore (amongst other themes) the ordering of society, changing relationships between Church and State, and the Church and ordinary believers, key issues in the educational, governmental, commercial and religious ‘revolutions’ of the period, and ways in which medieval men and women understood themselves, their world and their place within it.


  • an introductory grounding in medieval history
  • an awareness of the main issue at stake in undertaking historical analysis in the period
  • an introduction to the use of medieval texts as source material
  • an opportunity for students to discuss various issues in medieval history and to work on texts in a small-group context.

Intended learning outcomes

  • an understanding of some of the main issues in medieval history
  • an awareness of how medieval historians approach the analysis of their period
  • ability to set individual issues within their longer term historical context
  • ability to select pertinent textual evidence in order to illustrate/demonstrate more general historical points.

Teaching details

2 x 1hr lectures weekly over 10 weeks plus 1 x 1hr seminar weekly over 10 weeks.

Assessment Details

1 x 2000 word essay (formative), 1 x 2 hour exam (100%).

Reading and References

Abelard and Heloise, The Letters of Abelard and Heloise (Penguin Classics)

Marie de France, The Lais of Marie de France (Penguin Classics)

Internet Medieval Sourcebook:

Barber, M., The Two Cities: Medieval Europe, 1050-1320 (2nd edn., London, 2004)

Bartlett, R., The Making of Europe: Conquest, Colonisation, and Cultural Change, 950-1350 (London, 1994)

Power, D., The Central Middle Ages: Europe, 950-1320 (Oxford, 2006)