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Rome to renaissance: an introduction to the middle ages HI1011-05

This course is a stimulating and accessible introduction to some of the dominant events and trends in the Middle Ages.

The course explores the role of Christianity in the shaping of medieval European society to identify key influences and events that impacted the development of Western European society from Late Antiquity to the Renaissance. It offers students some experience in the reading and interpretation of medieval source material.


30 Credits

Topics covered

  • Late Antiquity and the End of the Roman Empire
  • The Barbarians: Successors of Rome
  • The Vicars of Saint Peter: the Early Medieval Papacy
  • The Arab Conquest of Spain, 711-741
  • Charlemagne and the Carolingian Empire
  • Monasticism, Missionaries and Christianity in Early Medieval Europe
  • The Vikings: Destroyers or Traders?
  • Alfred the Great and the Forging of England; Feudalism and the Evolution of Kingship
  • 1066 and the Norman Conquest of England
  • Medieval Architecture and Literature
  • The Reform Papacy and the Investiture Controversy
  • The Crusades and the Mediterranean World
  • Merchants and Mendicants: Spiritual and Material Renewal in the long Twelfth Century
  • The Outsiders: Jews and Dissenters
  • King John and Magna Carta; The Hundred Years War
  • The Black Death; The Reconquista: the Iberian Peninsula to 1492
  • The Late Medieval Papacy from Avignon to the Reformation.

Learning outcomes

Students successfully completing this course should be familiar at its end with the following:

  • To have a broad comprehension of some of the important themes, trends, and key events in the history of medieval Europe
  • To possess a greater appreciation for the role of Christianity in the shaping of medieval European society
  • To appreciate the roots of modern society in medieval Europe
  • To show some ability to interact with and interpret medieval source material
  • To have the opportunity to improve academic writing via formative assessments


  • Exam (80%)
  • Essay (10%)
  • Reflective journal and forum posts (10%)

Essential reading

  • R.H.C. Davis and R.I. Moore, A History of Medieval Europe from Constantine to Saint Louis, 3rd Edition (London and New York, 2005).
  • Matthias Becher, Charlemagne
  • Peter Brown, The Rise of Western Christendom: Triumph and Diversity, A.D. 200-1000, Tenth Anniversary Revised Edition (Chichester, 2013).
  • D. Waley and P. Denley, Later Medieval Europe, 1250-1520, 3rd Edition (Harlow, 2001).
  • Jonathan Phillips, The Crusades 1095-1204 2nd Edition
  • Richard Fletcher, The Conversion of Europe: from Paganism to Christianity, 371-1386AD (London, 1997).
  • Andrew Jotischky and Caroline Hull, The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Medieval World (London, 2005).
  • Patrick J. Geary, ed., Readings in Medieval History, 5th Edition (Toronto, 2015).
  • W.L. Warren, King John
  • Rosemary Horrox, The Black Death
  • Jeremy Cohen, The Friars and the Jews: the Evolution of Medieval Anti-Judaism.