HS1112: Medieval Worlds, AD 500 -1500

School History
Department Code SHARE
Module Code HS1112
External Subject Code V150
Number of Credits 20
Level L4
Language of Delivery English
Module Leader Professor Helen Nicholson
Semester Double Semester
Academic Year 2018/9

Outline Description of Module

Spanning 1000 years, this module will take students on a time-travelling journey around the world of the Middle Ages: north, east, south and west. The Medieval era is sometimes regarded as the relatively backward period that links the golden age of classical civilisation with the technological dynamism of the modern era. Yet far from being a backwater of history, the Medieval period was a time of rapid social, economic and cultural change. It saw the rise of towns, trade routes and new technologies; witnessed tumultuous conflicts and innovative warrior elites; saw clashes of faith and heresy. It was a time of new learning and ways of thinking about the world; an era of cultural expansion, exploration and settlement. Old certainties were challenged and in the encounter of cultures new vistas of knowledge and geographical expansion opened. Modern states and governments began to form, and the old empires crumbled. Taking a global approach and encompassing the disciplines of history, archaeology and religion, this module draws on original records and commentaries, artefacts and visual evidence, employing a series of exciting case studies and group projects to explore these vibrant Medieval Worlds.

On completion of the module a student should be able to

  • Demonstrate through comparative analysis a critical understanding of people, belief or societies in different geographical zones in the Medieval period
  • Analyse and interpret a range of primary source materials, including material, visual and written sources
  • Work effectively in a team in the co-production of the coursework assessments
  • Present group findings in visual form and in oral presentation;
  • Present individual assessment in summative written coursework.

How the module will be delivered

A range of teaching methods will be used in each of the sessions of the course, comprising a combination of lectures and seminar discussion of major issues.

Skills that will be practised and developed

Academic Skills (Knowledge, Understanding and Intellectual Skills)

Students will practise and develop their ability to:

Knowledge and Understanding

  • demonstrate a broad knowledge and an understanding of the processes that contributed to the development of the Medieval world;
  • demonstrate a critical understanding of a range of interdisciplinary approaches used to analyse and compare the development of different regions of the Medieval world;
  • critically gather, assimilate and interpret knowledge of the past;
  • critically compare different forms of evidence about the past.


Intellectual Skills

  • demonstrate an understanding of relevant concepts;
  • use a range of techniques to initiate and undertake analysis of information.


Subject Specific (Including Practical) Skills

  • develop causal explanations of historical processes;
  • demonstrate skills in comparative analysis.


Employability Skills

  • communicate their ideas and arguments effectively, in group discussion and in visual, oral and written form, in an accurate, succinct and lucid manner;
  • think critically and challenge assumptions;
  • use a range of information technology resources to assist with information retrieval and assignment presentation;
  • independently organise their own study methods and workload, and manage their time;
  • work effectively with others as part of a team or group.

How the module will be assessed

1) A group project (groups of up to five students), leading to a poster and a presentation given in a conference-style assessment day, which all students on the course will attend. Each project should be a comparative, interdisciplinary study based on one of the course themes (people, belief or society), which includes at least two of the four cardinal points and includes objects/ place / people covered in lectures. Each group’s choice of topic will be supervised by lecturing staff in a series of timetabled supervision meetings.

2) Individual assessment: a Portfolio of work submitted during the course of the two semesters, comprising a discussion of the topic for the group project and how it was arrived at; a preliminary survey of the evidence for the topic with bibliography of books and journal articles and a project plan; an updated bibliography and project plan; and a reflective piece on the presentation.

The referencing style for written assessments should follow that used by the student’s home department.

The assessment types are as follows:

Coursework:                                Portfolio

Practical Assessments:               Poster and Presentation


The opportunity for reassessment in this module

Individual cases will be determined by the Examination Board of the History Board of Studies.  Reassessment will normally take the form of a reassessment of the failed components (e.g. coursework, examination) in the August Resit Examination Period.


Assessment Breakdown

Type % Title Duration(hrs)
Written Assessment 30 Group Project : Poster N/A
Presentation 40 Group Project : Presentation N/A
Portfolio 30 Portfolio Of 4 Pieces Of Written Work N/A

Syllabus content

Four lectures on each of the cardinal points (North, East, South, West), following this general structure:

  1. Introduction to this zone;

  2. People

  3. Belief

  4. Society


Each lecture will focus on an object and/ or a place, and/ or a person.

The geographical zone constituting each of the cardinal points may vary from year to year depending on lecturer availability.

Essential Reading and Resource List

Essential Reading and Resource List

M. Barber, The Two Cities. Medieval Europe, 1050-1320, 2nd edn (Routledge, 2004) – available as an e-book by searching the university library catalogue

R. Bartlett, The Making of Europe. Conquest, Colonisation and Cultural Change, 950–1350 (Penguin, 1993)

M. Carver and J. Klapste, J. 2012. Archaeology of Medieval Europe: Volume 2: Twelfth to Sixteenth Centuries AD, Aarhus: Aarhus University Press.

J. Graham-Capbell and M. Valor (eds). 2007. Archaeology of Medieval Europe. Vol. 1. The Eighth to Twelfth Centuries AD. Aarhus: Aarhus University Press.

D. C. Lindberg and M. H. Shank, The Cambridge History of Science, vol. 2: Medieval Science (Cambridge University Press, 2013) (available online as an ebook)

C. Loveluck, 2013. Northwest Europe in the Early Middle Ages, c. AD600-1150: A Comparative Archaeology. Cambridge University Press.

J. Shepard (ed.), The Cambridge History of the Byzantine Empire (Cambridge University Press, 2008) (available online as an ebook)

Burton Stein, A History of India, Wiley-Blackwell, 1998 [ASSL DS436.A3.S8, etext: https://www.dawsonera.com/guard/protected/dawson.jsp?name=https://idp.cardiff.ac.uk/shibboleth&dest=http://www.dawsonera.com/depp/reader/protected/external/AbstractView/S9781444323511]

Background Reading and Resource List

Background Reading and Resource List

Ayers, B. 2016. The German Ocean: Medieval Europe Around the North Sea. London: Equinox.

Brink, S. and Price, N. 2008. The Viking World. London: Routledge.

Marcus Bull, Thinking Medieval: An Introduction to the Study of the Middle Ages (Palgrave, 2005) – available as an e-book by searching the university library catalogue

Campbell, B. 2016. The Great Transition: Climate, Disease and Society in the Late-Medieval World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Christie, N. 2006. From Constantine to Charlemagne: An Archaeology of Italy AD300-800. Farnham: Ashgate.

Creighton, O. 2012. Early European Castles: Aristocracy and Authority, AD800-1200. London: Bristol Classical Press.

Gilchrist, R. and Reynolds, A. (Eds). 2009. Reflections: 50 Years of Medieval Archaeology. Leeds: Maney.

Hamerow, H, 2002. Early Medieval Settlements: The Archaeology of Rural Communities in North-West Europe, 400-900. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

P. M. Holt, The Age of the Crusades: The Near East from the Eleventh Century to 1517 (Longman, 1986)

Hodges, R. 2000. Towns and Trade in the Age of Charlemagne. London: Duckworth.

Jervis, B., Broderick, L. and Grau-Sologestoa, I. (Eds). 2016. Objects, Environment and Everyday Life in Medieval Europe. Turnhout: Brepols.

William Chester Jordan, Europe in the High Middle Ages (Penguin, 2001)

Jacques Le Goff, Medieval Civilisation, 400-1500 (Blackwell, 1988)

Jacques Le Goff, The Birth of Europe, 400-1500, new edn (Blackwell, 2005)

George Holmes, ed. The Oxford [Illustrated] History of Medieval Europe (OUP, 1988)

Laine, J., Metareligion: Religion and Power in World History, University of California Press, Oakland, 2014 [ASSL BL80.3.L2

Pluskowski, A. 2013. The Archaeology of the Prussian Crusade: Holy War and Colonisation. London: Rouledge.

Valor, M. and Gutierrez, A. 2015. The Archaeology of Medieval Spain, 1100-1500. London: Equinox.

Wickham, C. 2016. Medieval Europe. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Wilkin, A., Naylor, J. and Keene, D. 2015. Town and Country in Medieval North Western Europe: Dynamic Interactions. Turnhout: Brepols.


Primary Source Collections

de Bary, T., et al., eds (rev. by Ainslie T. Embree), Sources of Indian Tradition Volume One: from the beginning to 1800, Columbia University Press, 1988 [1958] [ASSL DS423.S6]

The Internet Medieval Sourcebook: http://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/halsall/sbook.asp

The Online Reference Book for Medieval Studies: http://the-orb.arlima.net/encyclo.html


Resources on specific regions


Fleisher, J. 2010. Swahili synoecism: Rural settlements and town formation on the central East African coast, AD750-1500. Journal of Field Archaeology 35(3), 265-82.

Flesher, J. and LaViolette, A. 2013. The early Swahili trade village of Tumbe, Pemba Island, Tanzania. Antiquity 87, 1151-68.

LaViolette, A. 2008. Swahili cosmopolitanism in Africa and the Indian Ocean world, AD 600-1500. Archaeologies 4(1), 24-49.

Wynne-Jones, S. 2007. Creating urban communities at Kilwa Kisiwani, Tanzania, AD 800-1300. Antiquity 81, 368-80

Wynne-Jones, S. and Fleisher, J. 2016. The multiple territories of Swahili urban landscapes. World Archaeology (Online first).



Bisbane, M. (Ed). The Archaeology of Novgorod, Russia: Recent Results from the Town and its Hinterland. Lincoln: Society for Medieval Archaeology.

Brisbane, M. and Gaimster, D. (Eds). Novgorod: The Archaeology of a Russian Medieval City and its Hinterland. London: British Museum.

Brisbane, M., Makarov, N.A., Nosov, E.V. and Judelson, K. (Eds). 2012. The Archaeology of Medieval Novgorod in Context: Studies in Centre/Periphery Relations. Oxford: Oxbow Books.

Gaimster, D. 2005. A parallel history: The archaeology of Hanseatic urban culture in the Baltic c.1200-1600. World Archaeology 37(3), 408-23.

Gaimster, D. 2014. The Hanseatic cultural signature: Exploring globalization on the micro-scale in late Medieval northern Europe. European Journal of Archaeology 17(1), 60-81.

Immonen, V. 2007. Defining a culture: The meaning of Hanseatic in Medieval Turku. Antiquity 81, 720-32.

Mehler, N. 2009. The perception and interpretation of Hanseatic material culture in the North Atlantic: Problems and suggestions. Journal of the North Atlantic Special Issue 1, 89-108.

Naum, M. 2013. Premodern translocals: German merchant diaspora between Kalmar and northern German towns (1250-1500). International Journal of Historical Archaeology 17, 376-400.



C. Asher and C. Talbot, India Before Europe, Cambridge University Press, 2007 [ASSL DS452.A8].

H. Kulke and D. Rothermund, A History of India, Routledge, 1998 [ASSL DS436.A3.K8]

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