Medieval Paris (HIH2176)

StaffProfessor Yolanda Plumley - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level2
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks; Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module explores the growth of Paris from a small town to the great metropolis of Western Europe in the late Middle Ages. It charts the development of the urban space from the thirteenth to the fifteenth centuries and considers the impact on the city of economic, political and social factors in this period, including the effects of plague, war, civil unrest, and occupation by a foreign power. A range of primary sources, including contemporary accounts of the city and its inhabitants, chronicles, visual images, and other historical records, provides insight into the topography and architecture of the city, the different social orders that made up its population, and aspects of its mercantile, intellectual, cultural, and daily life.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Evaluate the main themes in the history of the urban development of Paris and the life of the city in the later Middle Ages
  • 2. Collate information upon and evaluate in greater detail those aspects of the module discussed in seminars and especially those topics selected by students for their essays
  • 3. Trace the urban development of Paris and life in the city in the later middle ages in relation to historical change
  • 4. With limited guidance, express independent ideas and assessments about aspects of the history of Paris in the Middle Ages
  • 5. Evaluate the different kinds of contemporary sources available for the study of the history of medieval Paris

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 6. Analyse the key developments in a complex and unfamiliar political and social environment.
  • 7. Trace long-term as well as short-term historical developments
  • 8. Understand and deploy correct historical terminology in a comprehensible manner.
  • 9. Handle different approaches to history in areas of controversy
  • 10. Work with, and analyse, contemporary sources under direction from the module tutor.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 11. Demonstrate a capacity for independent study and group work, including the presentation of material for group discussion.
  • 12. Digest, select and organise material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument, developed through the mode of assessment.

Syllabus plan

This module will explore various aspects of Medieval Paris, including: the development of the urban space to 1300; topography c1300; expansion and reorganisation in the 14th century;
the impact of economic depression (early 1300s), plague (1348), social unrest (1358, 1382 etc), civil war and the English occupation (early 15th). Topics will include:
• The orders of society and their relation with the city (the church, bourgeoisie, poor, nobility, and the king, his court and royal officers) and their spaces in the city (including architecture)
• Guilds and confraternities
• The Book Trade
• The University
• Ceremonies and Rituals (including royal entries, religious and other processions, feasts, poetry competitions and other festivals etc)
• Running the household in 14th-century Paris (Le Menasgier de Paris)
• -The Sounding City (the urban soundscape and musical life)

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
SLT22Weekly lectures
SLT11Fortnightly seminars
The module will be taught through a combination of lectures, seminars, and classwork. The lectures will be invaluable as a spine through which all students can be brought to a similar level of knowledge and through which ideas and controversies can be transmitted. The seminars will focus on particular aspects of the subject-matter, with a view to offering a fuller understanding than can be delivered through lectures, allowing the students to develop their skills and knowledge more fully. Students will be ex
GIS267Private study

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
Two essays of 3,000 words each. The first will be returned with comments before submission of the second. Neither essay may be revised after return. The essay gaining the higher mark will count as 33% of the overall assessment for the module, provided that both essays are submitted on time, otherwise penalties will apply. In addition, students will prepare work for seminars as stated above; this will not be formally assessed.333000 words
A two-hour unseen examination in May/June in which three questions (one document question and two essay questions) will be answered, will form 67% of the overall assessment. Feedback regarding the examination will be provided on request by the module tutor.672 hoursFeedback regarding the examination will be provided on request by the module tutor.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

M. Bull, (ed.), France in the Central Middle Ages (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2002).
S. Farmer, Surviving Poverty in Medieval Paris: Gender, Ideology, and the Daily Lives of the Poor (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell UP, 2002)
B. Geremek, The Margins of Society in Late Medieval Paris (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1987)
E. Hallam, and J. Everard, Capetian France 987-1328 (Longman: Harlow, 2001)
S. Roux, Paris in the Middle Ages (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 2009)
G.Small, Late Medieval France (Palgrave Macmillan: Basingstoke, 2009)

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Documents sur les relations de la royaute avec les villes en France de 1180 a 1314, ed. A. Giry and E. Lavisse (Paris: Picard, 1885), no. 5, p. 36. Translated by Richard Barton, 1998. Available at:

Guillebert de Metz, Description of Paris, 1434, trans. by Elizabeth Bennett. Available at:

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