Final year Ancient and Medieval History (V116) module summaries


  • The dissertation is 40 credits

This module develops from work undertaken in the second year Research Methods module. Students work to complete research undertaken and focus their energies on preparing drafts of chapters for their dissertations. Students undertake a wide range of research activities enabling them to engage directly with contemporary debates in history and examine and interpret diverse sources such as letters, diaries, newspapers, government, business, church and parish records, statistical sources and media representations of varying kinds etc...

Students studying this module are required to prepare a 12,000 word dissertation within either Medieval History or Ancient History and Classics.  Some students elect to research an area to which they have already been introduced via a taught module and some students seize the opportunity to pursue a research interest that they have been unable to develop elsewhere in the curriculum.

Optional Modules

Students must then choose 80 credits of optional modules

History Special Subject A and B example module summaries:

Each of these example modules are 20+20 credits

Game without Thrones: Saga Age Iceland c. 900-c.1250

How would you organise a brand-new society set up by people drawn from diverse geographical and social backgrounds? How would that society function if it were remote from other places and where material conditions were poor? What would you make of this society if the major written sources it produced were soap-opera-like stories dominated by tales of blood feuds, zombies, and where people fought not only with weapons but with sexual insults? Questions like these are key when we consider early Iceland, one of the world’s most distinctive societies in one of the world’s most unusual physical landscapes. 

The ‘viking’ colonisation of Iceland is one of the most unusual events in world: in the late ninth century a society was established from scratch in a country which had never been inhabited before. Why people went to Iceland, and how this new society of migrants evolved, forms the first part of the course. Equally intriguing is how this society functioned in later centuries. Iceland had no king, just a series of public assemblies where legal and social business was carried out. It was materially poor and political power was weak. The most important figures were often local or regional leaders (chieftains) whose charisma and personal qualities mattered as much as their wealth and military muscle. While Christianity officially arrived in Iceland in c.1000, the country was arguably slow to become fully Christianised. 

Bearers of the Cross: Devotion and Violence in the Crusading World 

From its origins in 1095, through its zenith in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, crusading was an act of devotional violence that was defined by a central concern with the recovery, possession and transformation of sacred spaces and objects that were believed to be threatened or polluted by religious ‘others’, whether Muslims, pagans, or heretics. In this module we will examine the religious ideas and devotional practices associated with crusading and Latin frontier settlement in the central Middle Ages through a wide-ranging study of texts, images and objects. We will ask: Why were medieval Catholics so obsessed with the idea of bringing the Holy Land under Latin Christian rule? What religious objects and images were prized and venerated by crusaders, and why? How were non-Latins affected by these dramatic expressions of Catholic piety? In what ways were the religious sensibilities of medieval Christendom reshaped by victories, defeats and disasters in the East? What was the ongoing appeal of crusading as an act of Christian piety? To what extent was crusading an ‘extreme’ display of medieval Catholic devotion? 

We will focus on the history and historiography of the First Crusade, which laid the foundations for so much of what was to follow and we will broaden the scope of our enquiries to consider the development of crusader devotion in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, examining a variety of forms of medieval textual, visual and material culture, including works of history and hagiography, coins, seals and manuscript illuminations, and reliquaries great and small. 

The World’s Largest Empire: The Mongols and China

The Mongols ran the largest land-based empire ever known in history. The drama of the initial conquests by Chinggis Qan (whom you may know better as Genghis Khan) is matched by the ambitions of his successors, not least Qubilai Qa’an (Khubilai Khan), who completed the conquest of China and founded the Yuan (1260-1368) dynasty there. Although the Mongol empire extended out from Inner Asia to the limits of Persia in the west and to China in the east, the attention of Europeans was riveted by the Mongol invasions of Eastern Europe in 1240-2, and subsequently by the extraordinary travelogue recounting Marco Polo’s twenty-year sojourn (1271-92) at Qubilai’s court in China and journeys to neighbouring countries. Thanks to Marco Polo, the Mongols in China have remained on Europeans’ radar ever since. We will work with some of the many primary materials accessible to those with no knowledge of the original languages, including Marco Polo, Rashid al-Din and the Secret History of the Mongols. We will investigate where the Mongols came from and the different ways in which their expansion was received: were they embraced, tolerated, resisted, and who sought their support? We will examine relations between the Mongols and the conquered peoples, and address issues such as collaboration and assimilation. The module gives you the opportunity to develop a deep appreciation of what many regard as the first truly global empire. 

1066: Epic Tales of Saints, Swordsman and Scribes

This Special Subject offers a chance to explore one of the most colourful and formative periods of English history both as a subject of historical enquiry and a product of historiographical invention. The century after Duke William’s famous conquest of England saw an explosion of historical writing - largely in the cultural context of monastic-centred religious reform - aimed at interpreting and inventing new accounts of the past to make sense of the startlingly dramatic developments of the present. Warriors and warfare, sex and marriage, saints and miracles, honour and humiliation, violence, insurgency and subjection were all subjects in the narration of a new Anglo-Norman history of England that grappled with the consequences of a small alien force of Normans and French that completely subdued and supplanted the English ruling elite. Such a wholesale regime change was rare even in medieval history, and seems to have shocked the native culture into stunned silence for at least a generation. When English and mixed birth scribes finally broke that silence, they unleashed a torrent of narrative designed to make sense of events set in train by 1066. As we shall see, their answers to questions of continuity and change have shaped the way subsequent English history has been written and read to this day. 

Ancient History Option example modules: 

Each of these example modules are 20 credits

  • Egyptian Mysteries in Greece and Rome
  • Greek and Roman Wall Painting
  • Humans and Environments
  • Age of Empires: Domination and Freedom in Greek Interstate Relations (403-306 BC)
  • Palace societies 
  • Love in Greek Literature 
  • Greek Mythology 
  • Roman religion and its limits 
  • Sparta
  • Death, Burial and Society 
  • War, Peace and Diplomacy in the Roman World

Example Languages:

  • Introduction to Ancient Egyptian A and Introduction to Ancient Egyptian B 
  • Intermediate Egyptian: hieratic 
  • Introduction to Greek language 
  • Beginners Greek 1
  • Beginners Greek 2
  • Introduction to Latin Language 
  • Beginners’ Latin 1 
  • Beginners' Latin 2