BA Classical Studies

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Seaborne State? Venice and the East 1150-1550

Course unit fact file
Unit code HIST31861
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by History
Available as a free choice unit? No


We will explore the history of Venice and her relations with the wider world in the late Middle Ages. How did Venice develop from a Byzantine duchy to one of the first modern states? What was the role of international trade in the making of Venice? How did trade overcome barriers of religious conflict in the wake of the crusades? What was the role of news and speculation in the making of a new public sphere? We will explore various aspects of Venetian history from political history and trade relations to questions of architectural expression and literary culture; Venetian views of the world and views of Venice in the world. We look also at bigger questions informed by readings of various seminal texts: how do economies adapt to climate crisis or the plague- who loses and who wins? How do modern states evolve out of a world of waning and waxing empires? What is a colonial empire and how can it be decolonized?


HIST31861 is only available to students on History-owned programmes; Euro Studies programmes; ClAH-owned programmes; and History joint honours programmes owned by other subject areas (please check your programme structure for further details).


  • Understand main developments in late medieval Venice
  • Understand the interconnection of diplomacy/political order and trade regimes
  • Critically engage with primary sources and relevant historiography as well as more general seminal texts
  • Sharpen understanding of critical theoretical approaches in history and the social sciences more generally

Knowledge and understanding

  • Acquire knowledge of late medieval/Renaissance Venetian history
  • Understand basic concepts of (Medieval and modern) trade and international systems
  • Understand main debates in historiography

Intellectual skills

  • Critically evaluate scholarship
  • Formulate and evaluate research questions
  • Analyse primary sources

Practical skills

  • Active listening and discussion
  • Retrieval and application of material from specialist internet resources, including working with online databases
  • Understanding different individual knowledge management solutions
  • Oral/online presentation skills, including short presentations with short preparation time, discussion skills

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Written communication and informed discussion with peers
  • Working with databases
  • Critical text analysis (retrieval of data, compiling of information, analysis to gather (applicable) insights), historical consciousness (critical reviewing of actual trends)
  • Presentation skills including presentations with little preparation time as required in assessment centres.

Assessment methods

In-class test (multiple choice and essay question)



Individual Presentation + Supporting Material (hand-out, slides)


source analysis OR literature review OR case study OR briefing paper






Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Written feedback on all assessment tasks


Additional one-to-one feedback (during consultation hour or by making an appointment)



Recommended reading

Eric R. Dursteler (ed.), A Companion to Venetian History, 1400-1797, Leiden 2013 (UML eBook).

Ashtor, Eliyahu. 1983. Levant Trade in the Later Middle Ages. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press (UML eBook).

Lane, Frederic Chapin. 1973. Venice a Maritime Republic. Baltimore: The John Hopkins Press (UML eBook).

Lane, Frederic Chapin. 1944. Andrea Barbarigo, merchant of Venice (1418 - 1449). In Johns Hopkins University studies in historical and political science ; 62,1. Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins Press.

Georg Christ. 2012. Trading Conflicts. Venetian Merchants and Mamluk Officials in Late Medieval Alexandria, Leiden: Brill.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Georg Christ Unit coordinator

Return to course details