Skip to main content

Unit information: The World of Byzantium (c.500-1100) (Level H Special Subject) in 2018/19

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name The World of Byzantium (c.500-1100) (Level H Special Subject)
Unit code HIST30085
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Bessard
Open unit status Not open




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


This unit considers the history of Byzantium chronologically from 700 to the Seljuk conquests. It concentrates on significant issues, such as the search for political, economic and religious stability, the interaction of secular and religious forces and Byzantium as a multi-ethnic pre-modern society. The following key aspects will inform the structure of the module. In the sixth century, under Justinian’s rule, the Byzantine Empire experienced a period of expansion (532-700). In the next period, (717-843), the Byzantine army was reorganized in the context of the Muslim conquests of the Middle East. At the same time, the empire was wracked by conflicts accompanying theological controversies over artistic representations of the sacred (the Iconoclast controversy). Finally, with the religious situation was smoothed over and with the breakup of the unity of the Muslim Caliphate, the Byzantine Empire was able to expand further from 843 to 1071. We will pay special attention to primary sources – historiography, numismatics, art, and architecture – and how they influenced the development of Byzantine studies.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, the students will be able to:

  1. demonstrate an advanced knowledge of significant historical events related to the Byzantine Empire;
  2. analyse aspects of Byzantine politics, society and culture;
  3. Explain how the Byzantine Empire’s socio-political and cultural transformations impacted the development of societies in the eastern Mediterranean;
  4. read and understand a variety of primary sources, as well as secondary works written in technical language.
  5. Articulate an understanding of how individuals are shaped by their own past and by the past of their society and institutions; the role of human agency in bringing about change in society and institutions; the role of diversity and difference in shaping human experience.

Teaching details

1 x 2-hour seminar and 1 x 1-hour seminar weekly

Assessment Details

1 x 3500 word essay (50%) [ILOs 1-5]

1 x 2 hour exam (50%) [ILOs 1-5]

Reading and References

Timothy E. Gregory, A History of Byzantium. 2nd edition. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.

Jonathan Shepard (ed.), The Cambridge History of the Byzantine Empire c. 500-1492. Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

Byzantium. Church, Society, and Civilization Seen Through Contemporary Eyes, ed. and tr. by Deno John Geanakoplos. Chicago/London: Chicago University Press, 1984