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BA Politics and Modern History / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

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Course unit details:
An Introduction to the Medieval World

Unit code HIST10262
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by History
Available as a free choice unit? No


HIST10692 is restricted to History programmes, Classics and Ancient History programmes, and History joint-honours programmes (please check your programme regulations for further details).



Available on which programme(s)?

This module is only available to students on History-owned programmes; Euro Studies programmes; Classics and Ancient History-owned programmes; and History joint honours programmes owned by other subject areas.

Available as Free Choice (UG) or to other programmes (PG)?


Available to students on an Erasmus programme


Pre/Co/Antirequisite units


Medium of language





This module aims to provide students with an introduction to the Middle Ages and the various approaches that can be brought to bear on the period. It further aims to facilitate students’ engagement with current historiographical debates and likewise to provide them with the skills and techniques necessary for in-depth primary source analysis. By the end of this course, students should be able to think critically and comparatively about a range of issues including, but not limited to, freedom and unfreedom, ethnicity and identity, interactions between religious communities, patterns of exploitation and popular revolt, and trade and connectivities. They should be able to evaluate historical arguments and build their own interpretations through detailed source analysis.


Indicative syllabus:

Week 1: Rome and Han China

Week 2: Early Christianity and its malcontents

Week 3: Revisiting barbarian invasions

Week 4: Conversion in comparison

Week 5: Empires at 750: boom or bust

Week 6: Elites and polities

Week 7: Faith and community

Week 8: Building ‘the’ church

Week 9: Creating and subverting hierarchies

Week 10: Trade and exchange

Week 11: Conclusions

Teaching and learning methods

  • Twenty-two 1-hour lectures
  • Eleven 1-hour seminars, which will include seminar-based activities and general discussion
  • Required reading will be digitally available through Blackboard
  • Written work will be submitted on Turnitin.

Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this module, students should be able to:

  • Understand the broad transformations that occurred in the period c. 300-1300
  • Compare and contrast different regional trajectories
  • Problematize the current periodization of the ‘medieval’ world

Intellectual skills

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • Engage in detailed primary source analysis
  • Critically evaluate secondary debates
  • Engage with comparative and subaltern approaches to history

Practical skills

  • seminar participation
  • primary source analysis
  • critical analysis of secondary historiography

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • written and oral communication
  • participation in group discussion
  • critical thinking

Employability skills

Analytical skills
analysis and synthesis of complex ideas
Group/team working
working autonomously and in groups
Problem solving
effective use of evidence
Written communication
writing in clear, well-structured prose

Assessment methods


Assessment task

Formative or Summative


Weighting within unit (if summative)

Source commentary     



1000 words


Critical analysis



1000 words




2 hours





Assessment task



2 hours


Feedback methods


Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Oral feedback on group discussions and presentations


Written feedback on coursework submissions and examinations


One-on-one oral feedback (during office hours or by making an appointment)



Recommended reading

Blockmans, Wim, and Hoppenbrouwers, Peter, Introduction to Medieval Europe, 300-1550 (London: Routledge, 2007).


Catlos, Brian, Muslims of Medieval Latin Christendom, c. 1050-1614 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014).


Cosmo, Nicola Di (ed.), Empires and Exchanges in Eurasian Late Antiquity: Rome, China, Iran and the Steppe, ca. 250-750 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018).


Holmes, Catherine, and Standen, Naomi (eds), The Global Middle Ages, in Past & Present 238: supplement 13 (2018), available online at


Kafadar, Cemel (ed.), Multiple Medieval Worlds, 600-1350 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, in preparation).


Linehan, Peter, and Nelson, Janet, The Medieval World (London: Routledge, 2002).


McKitterick, Rosamond (ed.), The Early Middle Ages, 400-1000 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).


Murray, Alexander, Reason and Society in the Middle Ages (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978).


Wickham, Chris, Medieval Europe (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2016).

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Ingrid Rembold Unit coordinator

Additional notes



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