All students take two interdisciplinary core modules:
Approaches to Medieval Studies
This module will expose you to approaches to the medieval past from a range of disciplines, in order to enable you to discuss and compare various approaches, and critically assess their utility for your own research. In the first half of the semester, you will directly compare different disciplines' approaches and methods, using 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). In the second half of term, seminars will focus on contemporary critical and cultural theories and associated modes of analysis.
Assessment: Two 2,000-word essays
Research Skills for Medieval Studies
This module will equip you with the skills necessary to proceed to postgraduate dissertation research with confidence. Themes studied will include: building a bibliography; academic writing; footnotes and citation; and writing and delivering academic papers. You will also meet with your dissertation supervisor for a number of 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
In addition, you will choose one pathway-specific core module:
Medieval History pathway - Historical Methods
This module focuses primarily on the development of history writing since the Second World War. You will be introduced to some of the major schools of or tendencies in historical research in turn, in all of which medievalists have played a significant role: 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).
Assessment: 4,000-word essay
Medieval Literature module - 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. Above all else, you’ll have the chance to turn the pages of some very special old books for yourself, beginning with an introductory session in the Cadbury Research Library here at Birmingham and ending with a trip to one of the UK’s major research libraries (e.g. Bodleian Library, Oxford).
Assessment: 3,000-word essay and transcription assessment
Medieval Archaeology pathway - 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
Byzantine Studies pathway - Methodologies of Byzantine Studies
This module provides an introduction to predominant research methodologies in Byzantine studies. You will be given introductory training in a variety of subject areas, such as historical writing, charters and documents, art history, numismatics, epigraphy and sigillography.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay
You will also choose three optional modules. You may choose to study one of the core modules from the other pathways as one of your options, and you can choose from a range of other modules which typically includes:
- Archaeological Theory, Method and Interpretation
- Archaeology of Greece
- Aspects of Byzantine History
- Byzantine Archaeology and Material Culture
- Byzantine Art and Architecture
- Egyptian Language 1 and 2
- Empire and Identity
- Fantastic Beasts and Where They Came From
- Fantasy and Fandom: Writing Back to the Medieval in Modern Fantasy
- Field Survey
- Funerary Archaeology
- Gender and Society in Byzantium
- GIS and Spatial Analysis
- Greek/Latin (Beginner/Advanced)
- History Advanced Option
- History Special Subject (double module)
- Individuals in History
- Landscape Archaeology
- Magic, Monsters and Marvels in the Medieval World
- Mapping the Middle Ages: Cultural Encounters in the Medieval East and West
- Material Culture
- Numismatics for Research and in Museums
- Reading French, German, Italian, Russian or Spanish for Researchers
- The Economies of the Late Roman, Byzantine and Frankish East
- Understanding Medieval Literature
For full module descriptions, see our Medieval Studies MA modules page.
In addition to your taught modules, you will conduct a piece of independent research with the support of a supervisor, culminating in a 15,000-word dissertation.
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.