You will study two core modules:
Approaches to Medieval Studies
Medieval Studies is a field to which many different disciplines contribute; the aim of this module is to expose you to approaches to the medieval past from a range of disciplines (such as archaeology, history, language & literature, art history, etc), in order to enable you to discuss and compare various approaches, and critically assess their utility for your own research.
You will use key texts and case studies on important themes in the study of the Middle Ages (such as gender, space, the life-cycle, social groups, the nature of power) and each session will be led by two tutors, each from a different discipline, allowing you to directly compare different disciplines' approaches and methods. Seminars will also deal with a selection of contemporary critical and cultural theories and associated modes of analysis.
Assessment: Two 2,000-word essays
Research Skills in Medieval Studies
This module aims to equip you with the skills necessary to proceed to postgraduate thesis research with confidence. In the first term, you will meet for a fortnightly seminar that will consider themes that may include: (1) building a bibliography; (2) academic writing; (3) footnotes and citation; (4) writing and delivering academic papers; (5) reviewing. In addition, you will meet with your thesis supervisors once in the Autumn and four times in the Spring for one-to-one tutorial meetings to discuss your chosen research topic and to develop a bibliography of primary and secondary materials as appropriate.
Assessment: 3,000-word essay and oral presentation
You will choose one 20-credit module from a range which typically includes:
Creating Europe: Complex Societies 1000 BC-AD 1000
This module explores the nature of complex societies in Europe from the Iron Age to the early medieval period, and their interactions with the state-organised societies of the Mediterranean. It is organised thematically and chronologically, focusing on interpretations of complex societies, large-scale economic and political systems, ethnicity, elite culture, chiefdoms, state formation, empire, urbanism, coinage, and long-term change. Case studies are drawn from a wide range of cultural contexts in north-west and central Europe, using both archaeological and historical evidence.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay
History Advanced Options
A range of topics are available and vary from year-to-year. Recent options available to medieval studies students have included:
- The Black Death in Medieval Europe: Disaster, Change and Recovery - this introduces you to the historiography of different aspects of the Black Death and the short, medium and long term effects of the arrival of the disease on a myriad of aspects of society. This is done by drawing on a wide range of primary and secondary sources, which will be examined critically in depth.
- After the Mongols: Political Authority in Islamic Lands, 1200-1600 - How do ruling elites cope when they are conquered by people whose world views are so different from their own? This module examines the bases of political authority in Islamic lands between the 13th and 16th centuries to try to answer this question. The Mongol elimination of the Abbasid Caliphate in the 13th century posed fundamental challenges to Islamic notions of rule. For the first time in its history sedentary Islamic society was faced with the reality of non-Muslim rule and the pre-eminence of Turko-Mongol political culture with its emphasis on a pastoralist ethos. Over the course of the next three centuries Muslim scholars and rulers struggled to develop new ideas of political authority which could address the shifting political realities of their day. Such ideas ranged from resistance to accommodation and, over the centuries, they resulted in new ways of doing things. A consideration of these changes allows us to understand the ideological foundations of the early modern empires which dominated West and South Asia into the modern era.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay
This module introduces you to the major developments in historical approaches since the Second World War and to some of the major schools of, or tendencies in, historical research such as the Annales School, the English historians’ response to Marxism, cultural history, the linguistic turn, gender, history of science and critical social theory (Geertz and Foucault). The focus is on the application of the ideas to historical practice then and now.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay
Meeting Medieval Manuscripts
From the sole-surviving manuscript of Beowulf to William Caxton’s introduction of the printing press to England, this module is designed to open up the fascinating world of medieval manuscript studies and book history. Throughout the semester we’ll use new online and digital resources to explore a series of key manuscripts and printed books from the eleventh century through to the early sixteenth century. Each week we’ll teach you how to read and transcribe different types of medieval handwriting (a skill known as palaeography) and introduce you to some of the central features of manuscript production (codicology) and early printing. We’ll focus week-by-week on a specific manuscript or type of manuscript (e.g. chronicles, book of hours, copies of The Canterbury Tales) and also discuss themes related to the study of the material text, including illumination and decoration, dialect, the production of miscellanies/anthologies, and digitisation.
Assessment: 3,000-word essay and transcription assessment
Please note that the optional module information listed on the website for this programme is intended to be indicative, and the availability of optional modules may vary from year to year. Where a module is no longer available we will let you know as soon as we can and help you to make other choices.