BA Art History and History / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
An Introduction to the Medieval World

Course unit fact file
Unit code HIST10261
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? No


What was ‘middle’ – or even ‘medieval’ – about the ‘Middle Ages’? This module seeks to move beyond such a Eurocentric model, in which the period between c. 500 and c. 1500 was traditionally (and quite wrongly) viewed as lying fallow between the ‘Decline and Fall’ of the Roman Empire and the so-called ‘Rise of the West’. Instead, examining the development of Western Europe in comparative perspective alongside up to three comparative case studies – which might include the Islamic world, Byzantium and China – this module will seek to revisit this dynamic period in which empires rose and fell, world religions took root and spread, and new models of trade and connectivity emerged. By c. 1500, , the world was beginning to look much more ‘modern’, and this was precisely because of – not in spite of – the changes experienced in this transformational period.   






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

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. 300-1500
  • Compare and contrast different regional trajectories
  • Problematize the current periodization of the ‘medieval’ world

Intellectual skills

  • 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

- Analysis and synthesis of complex ideas - Effective use of evidence - Writing in clear, well-structured prose - Working autonomously and in groups

Assessment methods

Primary source analysis 40%
Essay 60%


Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Oral feedback on group discussions


Written feedback on coursework submissions 


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


Feedback on online discussion boards (if in use)



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

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
Paul Oldfield Unit coordinator
Stephen Mossman Unit coordinator
Charles Insley Unit coordinator

Additional notes



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