Understanding the Medieval and Early-Modern World (HIH1410)

StaffProfessor Henry French - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15.00
NQF Level4
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks; Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

Between the fall of the Roman Empire in the fifth century and the intellectual excitement of the Enlightenment in the eighteenth, Europe was transformed. Rome's demise brought about major changes in the political, social and economic framework of the region although her cultural legacy continued to dominate. The new power structures that emerged were to lay the foundations for later medieval and early modern Europe, and witnessed the forging of a new set of values  political, cultural and economic  which were to be exported across the globe. In this module we will introduce you to the major events and themes of medieval and early modern history. Among other things, we will explore the environment in which people lived, the cultural milieux in which they moved and the ways in which they thought about and organised their worlds. Although the focus will be primarily on Europe, we will also consider the region's links with the wider world and seek to foster an appreciation of the principal forces that helped to shape the medieval, early modern and thus modern world.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Identify the main themes in the history of medieval and early modern history of Europe and its relations with other cultures
  • 2. Interpret the specific themes studied in seminar and coursework within the overall framework of developments in European history in this period

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. Explain, both orally and in written form, large themes over a relatively long span of history
  • 4. Evaluate the views of different historians on a topic
  • 5. Formulate a historical argument, based on professional standards of evidence use

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 6. Work both independently and in a group, including participating in oral seminar discussions
  • 7. Identify a topic, select, comprehend, and organise primary and secondary materials on that topic with some guidance from the tutor
  • 8. Produce to a deadline and in examination conditions a coherent argument

Syllabus plan


Week 1 Overview
** TOPIC - The Structures of Power (1): Peoples, Empires, Kingdoms and States **
Lecture:- Fall of Rome
Week 2 Lectures:- Empire and Kingship c.400-c.1000; Rulers and their Courts c.1000-c.1400
Seminar:- Government, State and Empire
Week 3 Lectures:- Rise of the Nation State c.1400-c.1600; The Seventeenth-century Crisis
(Study Group meeting)
** TOPIC - The Structures of Power (2): Aristocratic Elites **
Week 4 Lectures:- The 'Feudal Transformation' c.1000 Cultures of War; Chivalry
Seminar:- Ethnicity: Identities and Minorities
Week 5 Lectures:- Loves, Sex and Marriage; Lordship and power in the early modern world
(Study group meeting)
Week 6 Lecture:- Changes in government
** TOPIC - Ordering the World **
Lecture: Social Orders and Classes
Seminar:- Love, Family and Sexualities: Marriage
Week 7 Lectures:- Rebellion and Dissent Law; Crime and Punishment
(Study Group meeting)
Week 8 Lectures:- Time and Place; Identity and Belonging
Seminar:- Social Order: the Three Orders
Week 9
** TOPIC - The Environment (1): The Physical Environment **
Lectures:- The Limits of Nature; Making a Living
(Study Group meeting)
Week 10 Lecture:- Fertility and Mortality
Seminar:- Rebellion and Dissent: Peasants
Week 11 Lecture:- Black Death
(Study Group meeting)

Week 12 ** TOPIC - The Environment (2): Economic and Social Development **
Lectures:- Travel and Connections; Towns and Urban Life
Seminar:- Urban Development and Environment: Plagues
Week 13 Lectures:- The Rise of Capitalism Objects and Possessions; The Material World
(Study Group meeting)
Week 14
** TOPIC - Religion and the Church **
Lectures:- Expansion of Christianity in the Early Middle Ages; Popes, Bishops and Monks
Seminar:- Riches and Poverty: Trade and Commerce
Week 15 Lectures:- Belief and Unbelief; Reformation
(Study Group meeting)
Week 16
**TOPIC - Encountering the Other **
Lectures:- Rise of Islam Migrations; Vikings and Magyars
Seminar:- Religion and Ideologies: Death
Week 17 Lectures:- Crusades; Europe and Asia
(Study Group meeting)
Week 18 Lecture:- Exploration and Expansion: New Worlds
Seminar:- War and Violence: the Crusades
Week 19
** TOPIC - Cultures and Knowledge **
Lectures:- Renaissances; c.9th, c.12th, c.15th Artistic Expression and Exchange
(Study Group meeting)
Week 20 Lecture:- The Quest for Knowledge
- Elite vs Popular Culture
Week 21 Lecture:- Orality, Literacy and Education
(Study Group meeting)
Week 22 Lecture:- The Enlightenment
Seminar:- Medicine and Science: Contesting Knowledge

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities44lectures
Scheduled learning and teaching activities24seminars
Independent study232

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
2 x Essay plans 500 words each 1-8Verbal and written feedback
Essay (Term 1)1,500 words1-8Verbal and written feedback

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay (Term 2)331,500-words1-8Verbal and written feedback
Exam 67 2-hour unseen1-8Verbal and written feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-8Referral/deferral period.
ExamExam1-8Referral/deferral period.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

R. Bartlett, The Making of Europe: Conquest, Colonization and Cultural Change 950-1350 (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1993)

H. Kamen, European Society 1500-1700 (1st publ. 1971) (London: Routledge, 1992)

B. Kmin, ed., The European World 1500-1800: An Introduction to Early Modern History (London: Routledge, 2009)

J. LeGoff, Medieval Civilization (Oxford: Blackwell, 1988)

A. Pettegree, ed., The Reformation World (London: Routledge, 1992)

B. H. Rosenwein, A Short History of the Middle Ages 300-1500, 2nd edn (Peterborough, Ont: Broadview Press, 2004)

C. Wickham, The Inheritance of Rome: A History of Europe from 400 to 1000 (London: Allen Lane, 2009)

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Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources


Available as distance learning?